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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Likud set out to defeat its enemies in the last week before the March 28 election, identifying them as the Hamas leadership in the Palestinian Authority, polls predicting the party's electoral defeat and an antagonistic press.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and other Likud leaders spoke out against each of the three foes on Sunday night at a wedding hall filled with hundreds of activists in Beersheba. Party strategists said they believed that the messages against Hamas, the polls and the press would be enough to a salvage a few more mandates, the party's reputation and perhaps even Netanyahu's job.
"We can't bring an upheaval in the week we have left, but we can improve the situation," a Likud strategist said. "Our messages will be that unilateral withdrawals to Hamas are dangerous and that we cannot let the polls and the press decide the election."
To target enemy number one, starting Monday, the Likud will sponsor ads on buses and billboards across the country with the new slogan, "Stop the withdrawal - Likud."
Responding to the press, the Likud complained to the central elections committee on Sunday about two weekend reports on Channel 2 that party officials called "manipulative and biased."
Regarding the polls, Likud leaders asked party activists to bring out the vote and change them.
"The journalists and commentators are telling you that the election is over, but you have the right to vote," said MK Gideon Sa'ar, who chairs the Likud public relations team. "Let's give them four years to say they were mistaken."
The Likud's campaign chairman, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, blamed the press for the animosity against Netanyahu in the general public. He said that, had Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert been Likud chairman, the press would have been nearly as negative, but that the treatment of Netanyahu was especially unfair.
"Most of the commentators have become propagandists and created an anti-Bibi atmosphere," Rivlin said. "Bibi is a figure whom no one in this country is indifferent about. Some like him, some admire him, some don't like him. Some hate him a lot, whether because of his character or his views."
Netanyahu devoted his speech at the event to the dangers of Hamas and Olmert. "The way to peace starts with facing reality, not illusions," Netanyahu said. "We uprooted Jews from Gush Katif and got Kassams. A normal person would say stop, but Kadima is saying, maybe if we give them more, they will be satisfied. Is this sane policy? The Likud is the only force that can stop the withdrawal and bring security and peace."
MK Silvan Shalom warned that Kadima would end up forming a coalition with Balad.
Sources close to Netanyahu said his high-profile rift with Shalom had been exaggerated in the press and that the two had a very positive meeting on Thursday. But sources close to Shalom said he might support efforts in the Likud central committee to force Netanyahu to consider joining a Kadima-led government.
Netanyahu announced last week that he intended to remain in the opposition if Kadima were to win the election, and his associates said he did not intend to change his mind.
"There is no one better to lead the opposition than Netanyahu," an aide said.
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