Poll of Likud C'tee Shows Gideon Sa'ar to Be Mr. Popular

Members of the Likud Central Committee who will be selecting the candidate list for the March general elections want the top posts (after party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, whose spot is guaranteed) to go to MKs Gideon Sa'ar, Danny Naveh, Limor Livnat, Uzi Landau and Gilad Erdan, in that order.

The finding is from Tuesday's Haaretz-Channel 10-Dialog poll conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs among 406 committee members. Filling out the Likud dream team picked by respondents are MKs Yisrael Katz, Michael Eitan, Reuven Rivlin, Yuval Steinitz and Michael Ratzon.

According to the Dialog poll and other recent surveys, party whip Sa'ar has become the Likud's most popular politician in the past three years, with a 61.5 percent approval rating from the respondents who named their favorite five, compared to a 40.5 percent rating for Naveh and 35 percent for Livnat.

Sa'ar's name also appears at the top of the list of "best MKs" chosen by central committee members, followed by Eitan, Erdan, Rivlin and "Likud rebel" leader Landau.

If the survey respondents have their way, about half of the rebels who opposed the Gaza disengagement will be unemployed come April. When committee members were asked which Likud MKs they would most like to vote off the party island, topping the list was Yehiel Hazan, who was indicted for double-voting in May 2003 and is likely to be indicted for obstruction of justice after he was filmed removing evidence in that case from the Knesset storeroom. After him are the rather hard-working parliamentarian Inbal Gavrieli; Michael Gorlovsky, also infamously involved in the double-voting case; and Gila Gamliel and Ayoub Kara.

The Dialog poll asked about the declared intention of new Likud chief Netanyahu to transfer the task of selecting the party's candidates from the 3,000 members of the central committee to the 130,000 Likud members. Surprisingly, 30 percent of the 406 committee members who were polled said they were willing to relinquish the enormous power they had been given. Apparently they recognized that matters had gotten out of hand, and that a significant portion of the Likud's bad reputation were caused by the disturbing images associated with the formation of the candidates' list.

An overwhelming 82 percent of respondents said the media's portrayal of the committee was unfair, while 14 percent said it was complimentary.

A significant minority of respondents - 38 percent - said they believed that Kadima and Likud would unite under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following the elections, while 56 percent said this would not happen. The pro-union people are probably Sharon supporters who miss their daddy.

Contrary to conventional wisdom and other surveys, 60 percent of respondents expressed some measure of confidence in Netanyahu's ability to form the next government, with only 34 percent believing that this is a no-go. Either central committee members are natural optimists, or their party patriotism pulsates too proudly in their chests to allow them to tender a more reality-based response to this question.

To the question of which Likud-leavers they would like to bring back home from among Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Shaul Mofaz and Tzachi Hanegbi, respondents were predictable: Hanegbi, their favorite, heads the list, followed closely by Livni, who was never the darling of the central committee but whose national and public standing must affect even them. Trailing by several lengths are Mofaz and Sheetrit.