Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311.
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
It seems that the recommendation to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has done him a favor, at least for now. His party, Israel Beiteinu, would win two more Knesset seats to 18, according to a poll by the Rafi Smith Research Institute for "Globes". It appears that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein's decision to indict Lieberman not only failed to weaken him, but actually strengthened him and helped to boost his popularity by 20% since the last elections.
Lieberman's strengthening among his supporters is a ringing slap in the face for Israel's law enforcement establishment. As far as the public is concerned, Lieberman is worthy of admiration.
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The three additional Knesset seats that Israel Beiteinu has gained in polls since the 2009 elections are more than half way to the goal Lieberman set - to win 20 seats in the next elections. According to the Rafi Smith survey, Lieberman is serious. He is not merely mouthing slogans; as he puts it, he keeps his word.
It is possible to attribute Israel Beiteinu's rising support to the
recommendation to indict, and it is possible the Lieberman is winning
support because of his actions in the government, but one thing is
clear: Lieberman is now the strongman of the coalition. The chances of
establishing a government without him after the next elections verges on
There is no question that Lieberman has proved that Israel Beiteinu is
not an ephemeral phenomenon, and even with the threat of forced
resignation after an indictment hanging over his head, he continues to
gain strength. Trouble is good for Lieberman. He can now only hope that
trouble comes to him in spades.
The additional two Knesset seats that Israel Beiteinu would win,
compared with the previous survey a month ago, come at the expense of
Kadima and the National Union. Since the last elections, Kadima has lost
support equal to two Knesset seats in favor of Israel Beiteinu.
According to Rafi Smith, the right-wing bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah
Judaism, the National Union, and Jewish Home) without Israel Beiteinu,
would win 54 Knesset seats, if elections were held now. The left-wing
bloc, headed by Kadima, would win 56 seats if it linked up with Israel
Beiteinu. Neither Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni nor Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu can establish a coalition without Lieberman.
Were elections held now, the three main coalition partners would gain
strength. Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas would increase their Knesset
seats to 58 from the current 54. But while Shas is unchanged, the Likud
and Israel Beiteinu have grown stronger, but not at each other's
There is no doubt that the public's heart is on the right. While
Israel's Middle Eastern neighbors are quarreling amongst themselves, the
Israeli public has become more conservative and hardened its positions.
The Rafi Smith survey also reflects the mood around President Shimon
Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Both Kadima and the Likud have more or less kept their strength compared
with the previous poll. The biggest change is with the Labor Party,
which according to the latest poll has kept it strength rather than
collapse, despite the upheaval in the party. David Ben Gurion would
undoubtedly turn in his grave if he knew that the veteran party
considers winning eight Knesset seats an achievement.
Labor's stability may be due to Amram Mitzna, and it is possible that
the primaries will breathe new life into the party. Mitzna is giving the
party a boost; the question is how big. It is possible that the
rallying of the Labor Party old-timers to the cause carries some weight;
the only thing that the Likud can envy.
What the Labor Party elders failed to do for the party in the hard times
of 2006, Avraham Shochat, Micha Harish, and their colleagues are doing
for their party now, just as it is about to disappear from the map.
Labor is now positioned at a good jump-off point, provided its voters
elect a leader who can win it Knesset seats.
A final comment: the present poll reflects the makeup of the current
Knesset, and does not take into account two stars - Aryeh Deri and Yair
Lapid - whose entry into politics could shake up the picture.
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