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(photo credit: AP [file])
If elections were held today, opposition leader and Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu would become Israel's next Prime Minister. According to a Shavakim Panorama poll conducted for Israel Radio and published on Thursday, Netanyahu's Likud Party would garner 31 mandates if he were running against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima (13) and Defense Minsiter Ehud Barak of Labor (20).
Netanyahu would also win if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni headed Kadima's ticket, but would only win 28 mandates to Kadima's 21, while a Barak-led Labor would fall to 18 Knesset seats.
More significantly, the poll indicates a clear deterioration in Barak's standing, marking the first time he has fallen behind Livni and Netanyahu at the same time.
Under both scenarios - either a Livni or Olmert-led Kadima - Shas would manage 10 seats, while Israel Beiteinu would receive eight mandates.
Meanwhile, in response to the unflattering poll, Barak told Israel Radio Thursday that the results were "irrelevant."
"I am attacked from the left and from the right, but in the end I carry the responsibility for people's lives," said Barak, adding that he could not allow himself to be troubled by petty political advances against his policies as defense minister.
The defense minister went on to say that any future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is dependent on the Palestinians implementing their obligations in the first phase of the Road Map: to disarm all terror organizations.
Asked about his promise to exit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government following the Winograd Commission's inquiry into the Second Lebanon War, Barak replied that he wanted to wait until after "the complete Winograd report is published. Only then we (Labor) will consider what's best for the State of Israel and her citizen's, and not just what's best for Ehud Barak the individual."
In an attempt to alleviate concerns regarding his reportedly strained relationship with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Barak said, "He has demonstrated capabilities under immense pressure, and as far as I can see is acting according to the demands of his position."
When asked what threat looms largest against Israel, the defense minister said, "Israel stands against many threats. Only through action - through technological research, weapons' development and operational capabilities can we confront these threats - whether they come from Iran or from Gaza. Not through words; words alone cannot stop missiles. Meanwhile, from the inside we must ensure that Israel's national strength is strong, that we return to the Israel of old when dealing with outside threats."
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