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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A cease-fire has yet to be signed, but that has not stopped the political parties from ending their self-imposed moratorium on conducting politics during Operation Cast Lead.
Over the past three weeks, the parties limited themselves to "back-door campaigning," which consisted of visiting the South and issuing statements about developments in the Gaza Strip. But in the past week, as the cease-fire came closer, first the small parties resumed campaigning, and then the large parties joined them on Thursday.
The Likud scheduled, and then canceled a rally for Thursday night at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters in which responsibilities for the party's campaign would be allocated among its top 40 candidates. A Likud spokeswoman said the event was scheduled because a cease-fire was approaching and it was canceled later due to Thursday's escalation in Gaza.
But Kadima said the Likud only canceled the event because it was revealed by the press. They accused Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu of "panicking and caving into pressure" when he canceled it.
"Netanyahu has once again been caught zigzagging," a Kadima official said. "His contrived attempt to look statesmanlike blew up today with his attempt to hide a big political rally that he organized despite his promise to refrain from politics during the war. It's unfortunate that it was only canceled after the press found out about it."
Kadima accused both Likud and Labor of ending the moratorium on politics prematurely with attacks on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in radio interviews given by Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar and Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel on Thursday.
Cabel told a Tel Aviv radio station that "the old arrogant Olmert of the Second Lebanon War had returned" when Olmert bickered this week with Labor chairman Ehud Barak and with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sa'ar told Israel Radio that all citizens of Israel were now aware that Livni was wrong when she endorsed the Gaza Strip disengagement, abandoned the Philadelphi Corridor and supported the six-month cease-fire agreement with Hamas.
"As long as the fighting continues, our campaign will remain silent," a Kadima spokesman said.
Labor and Likud both responded that they had not restarted campaigning. A Labor spokesman said that his was the only party that had completely refrained from politics during the war, noting that Barak had not given a single interview.
Sa'ar said "Likud, unlike some parties, refrained from putting up signs during the war."
Meretz, which has put up signs and actively campaigned during the war, released a statement Thursday slamming the escalation in Gaza, which it said would "endanger the soldiers unnecessarily, cause unnecessary casualties on the Palestinian side and harm's Israel's reputation internationally."
A Ma'agar Mohot poll broadcast on Channel 2 on Wednesday night found that 62 percent of Israelis were in favor of continuing the war, while 26% want a cease-fire.
The poll also found that 49% of Israelis said their opinion of Olmert had improved during the war, 43% said the same of Barak. Regarding Livni, 22% said their opinion of her improved while 20% said it had gotten worse.
A Dialog poll published in Haaretz Thursday found that 78% of Israelis considered the war a success while fewer than 10% considered it a failure. Likud and Kadima have both lost support since the last poll taken by the company two weeks ago, while Labor's popularity had remained the same. If the election was held now, Likud would win 29 seats, Kadima 25 and Labor 16.
A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast Thursday on Israel Radio predicted that the race was not as close. Likud would win 28 seats, Kadima 21, Labor 15, Israel Beiteinu 15, Shas 10, United Torah Judaism 7, Meretz 5, Habayit Hayehudi 3, the National Union 3, the Greens 3, United Arab List 4, Hadash 3 and Balad 3.