(photo credit: )
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party dipped below the 40-mandate mark to 39 seats on Thursday, according to a Smith Research poll conducted on behalf of The Jerusalem Post.
The poll found that Kadima fell by one to two seats over the past week, as the press focused on the nine-month jail sentence of former MK Omri Sharon, the son of Kadima's founder, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The Likud attributed the results to "Olmert's zigzagging over whether to give money to the Hamas government," the violence in the Amona evacuation and Olmert's inexperience.
"No one can trust Olmert," Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel. "How can people vote for Olmert after his zigzagging? Kadima first decided to give Hamas the money and only when he saw the damage it caused Israel internationally and he realized that the public opposed him did he zigzag and adopt our point of view."
Kadima officials took solace in the fact that the votes that drifted away from the party had gone into the undecided camp and not to Labor or the Likud, which both held steady in the poll, with Labor at 17-18 seats and Likud at 17.
The poll gave Shas 9-10 seats, the National Union-National Religious Party rose to 8-9 from 7-8 the week before and Yisrael Beiteinu went up to eight mandates. United Torah Judaism with six seats, Meretz with four and the Arab parties with 8-9 closed out the poll.
Labor and Kadima spent the day sparring over the corruption issue. Following Sharon's sentencing, Labor decided to adopt the slogan "We are sick of your corruption, Kadima" and to distribute stickers with the slogan over the weekend.
A Kadima spokesman responded by attacking Labor chairman Amir Peretz and highlighting recent lawsuits filed against him by former Histadrut officials. Labor fought back by saying that as long as Kadima candidate Tzahi Hanegbi remains a minister, Kadima would remain a party built on corruption.
Labor MK Eli Ben-Menahem, who was not reelected in Labor's primary, announced on Thursday that he was leaving for Kadima. Ben-Menahem said he had not been promised a post in Kadima but that he no longer felt at home in Labor after it had been taken over by Peretz.
Yoram Marciano, who defeated Ben-Menahem to be the representative of poor neighborhoods on Labor's list, thanked Kadima for "accepting another corrupt loser in the party."
Kadima opened its Tel Aviv branch in a festive event with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday. Netanyahu will host the largest Likud event of the campaign thus far on Sunday night in Tel Aviv.