The Jerusalem Post’s poll indicating that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could be defeated by a new Center-Left mega-party put the Likud on the defensive over the weekend, with the party releasing a statement calling such a scenario ridiculous.

The poll, published in Friday’s Post, found that a party led by former prime minister Ehud Olmert that would include former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, current Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid would win 31 seats – with Netanyahu’s Likud securing only 27.

“The only thing those people have in common is hatred of Netanyahu, and it is very unlikely that their hatred would be enough to bring them together,” said MK Ophir Akunis, head of the Likud response team.

“It’s a fantasy of failed politicians like convicted sex offender [and former Kadima MK] Haim Ramon, who is working on a dirty political deal that will not succeed.”

Akunis said that if Olmert, who received a one-year suspended sentence last month for breach of trust, ran for prime minister, it would be internationally unprecedented and stain Israel. Akunis said he expected Lapid to keep his promise to avoid running with Olmert.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, who asked the Central Elections Committee last week to prevent Olmert from running, said a party of Olmert, Livni, Lapid and Mofaz could only exist in science fiction. There was no chance since May 2009 and the results have become part of the historical record on how Israelis view the Obama administration.

Citing the Post’s polls in his book Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy (2012), former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk wrote: “The Israeli prime minister knew from bitter experience that the Israeli public would punish him for mishandling relations with a popular US president, but he also knew that they would support him if he stood up to an unpopular US president, which is what Obama fast became in Israeli eyes.”

In the first Post/Smith poll in May 2009, before the Obama administration started taking action on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, 31% predicted that the administration would be more pro-Israel and 14% said more pro-Palestinian.

The next poll was taken less than a month later, following the first White House meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama, and the American president’s landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.

The poll found a huge shift had taken place, with the proportion calling the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian rising from 14% to 50% and the proportion calling it more pro-Israel falling from 31% to only 6%.

The proportion of those calling the Obama presidency more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian fell in August 2009 to a low of 4%, and rose to 9% in March 2010, 10% in July 2010 and 12% in May 2011.

In September 2011, the same question was asked in a survey sponsored by this newspaper that was conducted by another pollster that used different methods. Keevoon Strategies took the poll immediately after Obama delivered what was considered a very pro-Israel address to the UN General Assembly and blocked an effort by the Palestinians to persuade the UN to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state along the 1949 armistice lines.

That poll found that the percentage of Israelis who considered the Obama administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian was 54%. of so many egos coming together, she said.

Hotovely praised the poll for indicating that the Right-Center bloc would increase from 65 seats to 66 if Olmert and Livni ran with Lapid and Kadima, and to 69 mandates if they did not.

“All the polls show the Right getting stronger and the Left getting weaker,” Hotovely said.

“That is what is really happening, as opposed to what the poll reported about a hypothetical possibility that will not happen.”

The Likud is expected to get a boost on Sunday when Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter will announce that he intends to run for Knesset with the party. Dichter will make the announcement following a meeting with Netanyahu before Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting.

Dichter left Kadima in August when he quit the Knesset and joined the cabinet. He has run for Kadima chairman twice and has never been a member of another political party.

It will be tough for Dichter to get elected because, according to the party’s current rules, the 27 Likud MKs must compete for the first 19 slots on the party’s Knesset slate. The next dozen slots are reserved for new candidates representing regions and sectors.

In an effort to deal with the cut-throat competition, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom held a surprising rally on Thursday night at the home of Likud activist Moshe Feiglin in Karnei Shomron.

Feiglin denied a report that he had made a political bond with Shalom, noting that he held a similar event recently with Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon.

“I won’t be making political deals, but I am reaching out to as many Likud people as possible,” Feiglin said. “We have an interest in working together.” •

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