Lieberman gained most from war, surveys say

Israel Beiteinu potentially 3rd largest party; Meretz lost most during campaign.

avigdor lieberman 2 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avigdor lieberman 2
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The big winner politically in the aftermath of the Gaza war has been Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu Party, polls taken since the cease-fire took effect on Sunday have found. While Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor Party doubled in support at the start of the operation due to Barak's success in leading the IDF, support for Labor has remained static since then, while Israel Beiteinu has risen significantly. A poll taken by Panels for the Knesset Channel (99) that was broadcast Monday found that Israel Beiteinu would be the third largest party with 15 seats, behind Likud with 30 and Kadima with 24. Labor received 14 seats in the poll. An internal Kadima survey taken by pollster Kalman Geyer reportedly also predicted that Israel Beiteinu would win 15 seats and Labor 14. The Likud leads Kadima by a smaller margin in that poll. A Dialog poll broadcast Sunday night on Channel 10 found that Israel Beiteinu and Labor were tied at 14 mandates. A Ma'agar Mohot poll broadcast the same night on Channel 2 gave Labor a two-seat lead, 15 to 13. Israel Beiteinu officials said their own internal polls found the party getting 15 seats, but that the data revealed that Israel Beiteinu voters were among the most loyal and intense, and therefore the party could win two or three more seats, especially if voter turnout was lower than expected. The officials said the party's rise in support actually began before the war began on December 27, but it intensified as a result of anti-Israel demonstrations during the operation in universities and Arab towns. There were calls of "death to Israel" at the protests and the mayor of Sakhnin, who receives an NIS 27,000 monthly salary from the state, said he would be "honored to be a shahid in Jerusalem." "Such vocal protests supporting Hamas while our soldiers were in Gaza made people realize that it's stupid to give benefits to people who support terrorist groups that are trying to kill our soldiers," an Israel Beiteinu official said. "People said, 'Enough is enough,' and only Lieberman was addressing that issue. While other leaders were out of touch on this issue, Lieberman captured the people's voice." To capitalize on the anti-Arab sentiment, Israel Beiteinu's television, radio and Internet ads will highlight anti-Israel quotes from Arab MKs. Israel Beiteinu has also led the effort to ban Balad from running for Knesset. The polls have found that the party that lost the most as a result of the operation has been Meretz. The party lost momentum it received at the start of the election campaign when it joined together with a new leftist movement. Not only did voters across the political spectrum shift to the Right during the war, but much of Labor's rise came at Meretz's expense. Elections in high schools following candidates' debates, which are often seen as a bellwether for elections, have found that the rightward shift is especially strong among young people. Meretz will hold a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday in which a new slogan and jingle will be revealed in an effort to regain its lost momentum.