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‘Post’ poll: Likud Beytenu holds steady at 34 seats
By GIL HOFFMAN
18/01/2013
Poll conducted following publication of harsh criticism of Netanyahu attributed to Obama; Labor predicted to receive 17 seats, Bayit Yehudi 13; Bennett rejects endorsement from Rabin assassin, Yigal Amir.
 
The final Jerusalem Post/Smith Research poll legally permitted to be published before Tuesday’s election found that Likud Beytenu would win 34 seats, the same as last week’s poll predicted.

The poll of 800 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult Israeli population was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday night, following the publication of harsh criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attributed to US President Barack Obama.

The poll predicted 17 seats for Labor, 13 for Bayit Yehudi, 11 each for Yesh Atid and Shas, seven for the Tzipi Livni party, six each for United Torah Judaism and Meretz, four each for Hadash and Balad, three for the United Arab List, and two each for Kadima and Strong Israel.

Atlanta native Jeremy Gimpel, who is 14th on the Bayit Yehudi candidates list, said he saw his party’s fall from 14 seats last week to 13 as a challenge to immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries to carry him into the Knesset as their representative.

“It is now within our hands to elect the first American immigrant in decades to the Knesset and take our message of choosing aliya to all of Israel,” Gimpel said.

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Pollster Rafi Smith said he found that among voters under 30, Likud Beytenu received the most support, followed closely by Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid and Labor. The Tzipi Livni Party received nearly no support among voters under 30, even falling behind two parties not expected to pass the 2-percent electoral threshold, Eretz Chadasha and Green Leaf.

Livni and the candidates on her list tried to reach out to young people on Thursday by visiting a mall and handing out coffee packets bearing a message “Israel, Wake Up!” Livni received an endorsement on Thursday from singer Ahinoam Nini.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jerusalem city councilwoman Merav Cohen, who is ninth on the Livni list, predicted the party’s standing among her fellow young people would improve.

“I’m talking to lots of young people, and there are many undecided people among them,” Cohen said. “I can get them to realize that Tzipi might not be the most in style but she is the best option for Israel, because she is the only chance for a diplomatic agreement. My place in Knesset is far from guaranteed, I will have to work hard and earn it.”

Meanwhile, Likud Beytenu vigorously denied a Channel 10 report on Thursday night that the joint list’s world renowned American strategists, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum, had left the campaign.

The exclusive report by Channel 10 political correspondent Nadav Perry said the American strategists had left amid a power struggle in the Likud Beytenu campaign with Israeli campaign director Gil Samsonov and other Likud officials. Perry reported that Finkelstein and Birnbaum had returned early to the United States.

The Likud responded that not only did Finkelstein and Birnbaum not leave the campaign, their departure was coordinated with the party two months ago. The party even produced a copy of Finkelstein’s itinerary printed two months ago to prove it.

“The report is much ado about nothing,” a source connected to Finkelstein’s office told The Jerusalem Post by phone from the United States.

“Arthur is never here on Election Day. Birnbaum usually is, but he is not this time for personal reasons.”

But another source close to Finkelstein confirmed the report telling Jerusalem Post columnist Ben Caspit that Finkelstein had left because of the behavior of Netanyahu who “interfered too much and made it impossible to work.”

The source said Netanyahu changed his mind too much and created negative energy that lost him many mandates.

The first source denied reports that Likud Beytenu was doing much less well than the strategist had predicted at the start of the campaign. The reports had said that Finkelstein predicted 45 Knesset seats for the joint list, which now receives as few as 32 in polls.

The source noted that Finkelstein had actually predicted that Likud Beytenu would receive the 42 mandates the two parties won last election, “plus or minus two or three seats.”

Likud Beytenu’s internal polls predict the joint list winning 38.

Livni, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett all called for the formation of a national unity government at a conference in Eilat on Thursday. Bennett surprised many at the conference by saying he backs removing outposts built illegally on private Palestinian land.

Bennett took pains to distance himself on Thursday from a potentially harmful endorsement for Bayit Yehudi from former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. Bennet said he would pass on Amir’s support. He attacked the media for obsessively focusing on things that did not matter.

“There are serious issues in this country,” he said. “People can’t afford to finish the month, and you are focusing on the [former] prime minister’s killer.”

Yoni Dayan and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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