A socioeconomic party led by former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon could decide whether the Right or Left comes to power after the next general election, according to a Midgam poll broadcast Tuesday night on Channel 10.

The poll predicted that Kahlon’s party would win 10 seats, taking votes away from Likud Beytenu, Yesh Atid, Shas and Labor. When the poll had Likud and Yisrael Beytenu running separately, it found that Kahlon’s party would win 11 seats and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu only five.

The poll was taken Tuesday, two days after Liberman provoked a political storm when he spoke at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York about the possibility of early elections.

Apparently preparing for early elections, Kahlon criticized the Likud Tuesday in an interview with Yediot Aharonot.

Kahlon said he had not yet decided with which framework to make a political comeback, but that he had a problem returning to the Likud because of its socioeconomic and diplomatic policies.

He said the party had stopped working to bridge gaps between rich and poor and was controlled by hawks who opposed peacemaking.

“The Likud is supposed to represent socioeconomic sensitivity, mercy and caring for the weak, but the party has lost its way,” he lamented. “In recent years, the party has abandoned its socioeconomic banner, and it now focuses only on diplomatic issues, and that is unfortunate.”

Kahlon complained that the Likud had been taken over by right-wing extremists who had decided that the best way to have influence was to control the ruling party.

Officials in the Likud blasted Kahlon, saying that he himself had been one of the leaders of the rightwing rebellion against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon that led to a split in the party following the 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal. They said that Kahlon had praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s socioeconomic policies ahead of last year’s election, but if poor people were suffering now, Kahlon, as the former minister of welfare and social services, was to blame.

Likud MK Gila Gamliel defended Kahlon, however, saying that his criticism should provoke soul-searching in the party and a renewed focus on helping the state’s weakest sectors.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the Likud downplayed Kahlon’s criticism and said there was plenty of time before the next election for Kahlon to make up his mind about his future.

“I hope he eventually finds his way back to the Likud, which, according to what I know of his views, is his natural place,” Sa’ar told Army Radio.

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