Netanyahu: Kadima won't last until next election
Olmert: I have no doubt that mine is the strongest and most stable party.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 21, 2006 09:17
3 minute read.
Olmert Bibi 298 ap.
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party will self-destruct and lose so many voters that it will not survive until the next election, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said in closed conversations on Thursday.
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Netanyahu predicted a split in the party, but said he would take no action to bring it about because it would harm his reputation and damage him politically. He said that even if there were to be no split and no MKs were to leave the party, Kadima's voters would leave on their own.
The Likud leader made the comments on a day when the Hebrew press published polls indicating that his popularity was skyrocketing. A Dialogue poll in Ha'aretz found that his approval rating was 58 percent and his disapproval rating 29%.
Netanyahu's numbers were considerably higher than those of Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Olmert's approval rating plummeted to just 22% from 48% six weeks ago, and Peretz's fell to 14% from 37%.
A Dahaf Institute poll published in Yediot Aharonot found that 27% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu was the most fitting candidate to be prime minister, followed by 15% for Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, 14% for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, 12% for Vice Premier Shimon Peres, 7% for Olmert, 5% for Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, 3% for former prime minister Ehud Barak and only one percent for Peretz.
Olmert said he was not disturbed by his poor performance in the polls or by Netanyahu's rise. A source close to Olmert revealed that a recent poll sponsored by Kadima found that the party would win 24-25 seats, some 10 more than the Likud.
"I am not taking the polls seriously," Olmert said in an interview with Channel 10. "Kadima is only 10 months old. I have no doubt that Kadima is the strongest and most stable party."
Kadima officials said Netanyahu would live to regret his doomsday predictions for Kadima. They accused him of "cynically riding on the backs of the post-war protesters."
"If I had a bet, I would say that Bibi is wrong and the Likud will break up, not us," Kadima director-general Yohanan Plesner said. "They don't have what to offer the public in their gallery of leaders or in their agenda."
Kadima officials blamed the Likud and the extreme Right for the heckling that marred Olmert's Rosh Hashana toast to Kadima activists at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Wednesday. They noted that bereaved parent Moshe Muskal, who heckled Olmert and called upon him to resign, is a Likud central committee member from Mazkeret Batya.
Plesner said that Kadima would learn lessons from the incident, but he said the protesters were taken out of proportion. He predicted that the protest would have a boomerang effect and end up helping Kadima, especially after a bereaved parent called Olmert a murderer.
"Three thousand people came to show support for Kadima and 10 people came to scream in front of the television cameras," Plesner said. "There is a big difference between 3000 people with one message and 10 with another."
Meanwhile, Olmert held a conference call with 500 American rabbis and Jewish leaders on Thursday in which he spoke of the successes of the Lebanon campaign. The call, which was organized by the Jewish National Fund, was held even as Channel 2 aired an interview with Olmert in which he acknowledged "there were military mistakes during the war."
"The outcome in Lebanon was what we thought was possible," he said. He noted achievements including the deployment of the Lebanese army along the country's southern border, a new international force to reinforce them and the restraint of Hizbullah over the last month despite the presence of Israeli forces nearby.
"We're not challenged anymore by Hizbullah because Hizbullah dares not surface with even one weapon," he said, also pointing to the destruction of the Islamic militia's bunkers along the border. "There is no more threat to the people in the north from that part of Lebanon."
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.