When the results of the Palestinian elections were first reported on Thursday, a Kadima minister responded that he didn't know where there was more joy - in Ramallah and Gaza City or in the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters, Metzudat Ze'ev.
|PLC ELECTIONS AFTERMATH|
Shortly thereafter, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu called a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset to tell the cameras he had warned all along against building a Hamas state a few kilometers away from Ra'anana and Kfar Saba.
As in the press conference he held on September 11, 2001, Netanyahu took credit for predicting the rise of radical Islam.
Netanyahu's "I told you so" show will continue on Sunday with a Likud rally in Netanya and a tour of the security fence near Jerusalem. The fence tour will highlight Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision last week to move the fence closer to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway to keep out the Arab village Beit Iksa between Mevaseret Zion and Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood.
By Monday's newspapers, nearly all the Israeli voters will have heard Netanyahu's pleas to elect the Likud and prevent the additional unilateral withdrawal in Judea and Samaria that Olmert has not ruled out. The following day, the first polls since Hamas's victory will be published.
By all logic, the Likud will go up by at least five seats from the average of 15 from the most recent polls before the Palestinian election. The Likud's gain should come at the expense of Kadima, which was caught off-guard by the Hamas win, and Labor, which tried desperately to shift the election's agenda to socio-economic issues.
But Netanyahu failed to take advantage of three previous opportunities to gain in the polls. Unlike when Labor chairman Amir Peretz was elected, the Likud did not make a substantial gain in the polls after Netanyahu won the Likud primary.
When Sharon suffered his stroke and he was replaced by a less experienced, non-war hero in Olmert, Netanyahu's Likud did not succeed in recovering the Likud voters who had left along with Sharon to Kadima.
Ten days ago, there was a terrorist attack near the Tel Aviv bus station that has been all but forgotten. In a bad omen for the Likud, the party did not gain in the polls despite the Likud's campaign that started on that day on billboards nationwide warning the public that Olmert's policies would result in more terror.
Netanyahu got away with not gaining in the polls following those three incidents, but he cannot afford to miss another opportunity. He must rise in the polls to at least 20 mandates and pass Labor for second place to have any hope of making a significant dent in Kadima's support and winning the March 28 election.
If Netanyahu succeeds in taking advantage of Hamas's victory, a snowball effect will be created and Kadima could be in serious trouble. If he fails when he has such an obvious chance for electoral gain, Netanyahu will be lucky to be the opposition leader and it is likely that nothing will be able to stop Kadima from winning a Hamas-style landslide victory.