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 the January 22, 2013 election, a Smith Research survey carried out exclusively for The Jerusalem Post revealed Thursday.

The poll, which was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, found that the party would win 31 seats, four more than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which would receive 27 mandates. Yisrael Beytenu would come in third with 14 mandates, closely followed by Labor with 12 and Shas with 11.



Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Independence Party would not pass the electoral threshold.

A separate question found that if former IDF chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who legally cannot run for Knesset until his three-year cooling- off period ends, was unofficially one of the Center- Left party’s leaders, this would significantly increase the likelihood of people voting for the party.

The poll of 500 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult Israeli population found that if Olmert and Livni do not run, the results of the election would be similar to the 2009 race, except that Kadima would plunge from 28 seats to five, with its mandates going mostly to Labor headed by Shelly Yacimovich and Lapid’s new Yesh Atid party.

The poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Olmert has received very similar results in polls he initiated to determine whether he should return to politics. Mofaz reportedly told him in a meeting on Thursday that he would let him take the top slot if he made a political comeback and he received a similar commitment from Livni.

Loyalists of Olmert now intend to push Lapid to run with him.

“Lapid is intelligent and I think he knows what he has to do,” said Kadima faction head Dalia Itzik. “I am not surprised by the poll. I believe the public realizes it needs a manager to run the country and that Olmert has proved he can help them sleep at night. All of the politicians who care about Israel and want the country to be run professionally must put their egos on the side for the better of the country and I think they will.”

Olmert’s loyalists expressed hope that if such a mega-party on the Center- Left would run and win more seats than Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Shas could join an Olmert-led coalition.

They noted that Olmert has kept close ties with Shas’s heads and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, and suggested that Liberman would have a political interest in ending Netanyahu’s political career.

Channel 10 reported that Olmert received a ruling from Bar-Ilan University law Prof. Ariel Bendor that he would legally be permitted to run despite his conviction on a charge of breach of trust in the Investment Centers affair.

Lapid’s spokeswoman responded to the poll that he repeatedly said he would run on his own and he does not intend to change his mind.

Netanyahu’s office and Mofaz’s associates declined to comment.

As The Jerusalem Post reported exclusively on Thursday’s front page, Netanyahu confirmed that he had chosen January 22 as the date for the election.

The date was designated on a memo circulated by the Prime Minister’s Office Thursday regarding proposed legislation to dissolve the Knesset. The bill is expected to be voted on by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

Shas and United Torah Judaism may still try to force a later election date.

Assuming that Election Day remains January 22, parties will have to submit their lists of candidates by December 8.

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