Poll: Labor Chips Away at Kadima, but No Inroads Into Likud

Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz will hold a run-off for the party's leadership next week.

If elections were held today, the Labor Party would win 22 Knesset seats under Shelly Yachimovich and 18 under Amir Peretz, up from 13 in the last election, a new Haaretz-Dialog poll found.

Both Yachimovich and Peretz, who will hold a run-off for the party's leadership next week, would steal seats from Kadima, the main opposition party, the poll found. Under Yachimovich, Kadima would lose six of its current 28 seats, while under Peretz, it would lose four. The results show not only that voters are willing to give Labor a second chance, but that voters interested in social justice - a cause championed by both Yachimovich and Peretz - don't see Kadima as a viable alternative.

Yachimovich, Peretz
Dudu Bachar and Moti Milrod

Ever since the social protest erupted in July, Kadima has steadily weakened, and Labor's new era puts another nail in its coffin. But Kadima is not the only victim. The poll found that Shas would also lose one or two seats from its current 11 to the reborn Labor, while Meretz, which has recently been climbing in the polls, would cede most of its virtual gains back to Labor under either candidate.

Nevertheless, one thing hasn't changed: Despite the summer's social protest and the intensive media coverage of Labor's primary, the poll still showed the Likud/religious/right-wing bloc winning a clear majority of the 120-seat Knesset - 64 or 65 seats. Since Israeli prime ministers are elected by parliament rather than directly, that means Benjamin Netanyahu would likely remain prime minister.

The poll did show Likud losing two to three seats, compared to both its current strength and the results of the previous poll, but the beneficiary was evidently not Labor, but rather two small right-wing parties that plan to run a joint list in the next election: National Union and Habayit Hayehudi. This appears to be a response to last week's house demolitions in the illegal settlement outpost of Migron, which outraged many Likud voters.

Overall, the poll showed that Likud, Kadima and Labor currently seem poised to be of roughly equal size in the next Knesset. If so, and if Netanyahu indeed keeps his job, he will be virtually compelled to set up a national unity government. Yachimovich has already said she would not rule out such a government.

The bottom line is that Labor now seems headed for a brighter future. But it still faces two potentially serious hurdles: its own suicidal tendencies, which have led it to oust one leader after another, and a possible deterioration in the security situation. Neither Yachimovich nor Peretz is perceived by the public as strong on security.