Rabbi Lau Ahead of Rivlin for President

Israelis prefer Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau for president over former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll. The poll revealed that 26 percent supported Lau as opposed to eight percent who expressed support for Rivlin.

However, the greatest number of those surveyed - 32 percent - voiced support Galilee and Negev Development Minister Shimon Peres for the office.

Some 16 percent of those polled said they wanted to see former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as president, and only four percent said they supported Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

The position of the public has no direct effect on the choice of president, who is chosen by means of secret ballot in the Knesset.

The poll, conducted by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, was taken on Wednesday among a representative sample of 515 respondents (with a 4.4 percent margin of error for each question).

When those polled were presented with the choice of Lau versus Rivlin, 47 percent of the vote went to Lau and 28 percent to Rivlin. Among Likud supporters, however, Rivlin garnered 50 percent of the vote, as opposed to Lau's 33 percent. Lau won a majority among Kadima voters, the party supporting him for the post, as well as among supporters of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox parties. However, 25 percent of those polled said they did not want to see either as president, or had no opinion.

In questions that sought to determine what Israelis expect from their president, Rivlin has somewhat of an advantage: At the top of the list of those polled was "grassroots," followed by "liberalism" and "good manners." More religious respondents said they sought "religiousity," the fourth most popular category. Rivlin was perceived as problematic in terms of the fifth most popular characteristic - "political moderation."

On other political scores, only a month after the cabinet was formed, only 35 percent said they were satisfied with the new prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Some 30 percent said they had yet to form an opinion on the man.

Haaretz will be taking the public pulse regularly from now on regarding its view of Olmert and senior ministers by means of the Dialog opinion poll institute.

As expected, following his successful visits to the United States and Egypt, most people see Olmert as rating highly in the area of foreign policy, at the expense of security and the economy.

The poll accorded Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni a 53-percent job approval rate. The third most senior minister, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, is still seen as the wrong man in the wrong job - only 31 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with his work, as opposed to 41 percent who were not. Peretz can be comforted by the fact that his job approval rate among Labor voters was 64 percent.

As for the job of Likud chairman, the public showed little preference for either Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu or Silvan Shalom, who lost the race for the post. Third runner-up for Likud chairman among those polled was President Moshe Katzav, whose term is up in about a year and is reportedly considering the position.

When asked who they supported as Likud chairman, Netanyahu came in first, with 28 percent of support among all respondents; Shalom finished second, with 21 percent; and Katzav came in third, with 19 percent. However, Likud respondents gave Netanyahu 67 percent of their support, which shows that in spite of the blow he suffered in the last elections, this group remains loyal to him.