Likud hopes to gain from Omri's fall

New poll shows Likud passing Labor; NRP-NU bloc at 11.

omri sharon 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
omri sharon 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Likud will try to use the prison sentence handed out to Omri Sharon, son of the party's former leader Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to win back supporters from the Kadima party, Likud officials said on Tuesday. Sources close to Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said the Tel Aviv District Court's decision to send Sharon to jail for nine months was another in a long chain of events that have worked in the Likud's favor. They included in the list the advancement of the case against Kadima candidate Tzahi Hanegbi, Hamas's election victory and acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to transfer tax funds to the Palestinian Authority. The Likud gained significantly on Kadima in a Geocartography poll broadcast on Channel 1 on Tuesday. The poll was taken before Sharon's verdict was announced. The poll found that Kadima had fallen below the 40 mark, to 39 mandates, the Likud would win 20 seats and Labor just 17. The new National Union/National Religious Party bloc would win 11 seats according to the poll. "Kadima is on the way down and we are ready to take advantage of it," a Netanyahu associate said. The Likud will unveil a new commercial attacking Olmert on Wednesday. The party announced the new anti-Olmert campaign on Tuesday, using the slogan "One Ehud was already enough." The slogan refers to former prime minister Ehud Barak, whom the Likud would like to connect to Olmert in the minds of the voters in place of Ariel Sharon. Olmert called Omri Sharon after the court announced his sentence, to wish him well. Sources close to the prime ministerial candidates from the three large parties - Olmert, Netanyahu and Labor Party head Amir Peretz - said the court decision would make them even more cautious about obeying campaign fundraising laws. Kadima officials said they were shocked by the sentence and that the punishment did not fit the crime, because Omri Sharon cooperated with the prosecution, it was his first offense and he had resigned from the Knesset. They accused the judges of making an example of Sharon, turning him into a sacrificial lamb. Politicians from across the political spectrum used Sharon's sentencing to attack Kadima. "Sharon is going to jail for a few months, but the State of Israel is liable to be imprisoned for years behind the bars of Kadima, which Omri founded and assembled," National Union MK Zvi Hendel said. Labor candidate Shelly Yacimovich said that Sharon's conviction "hides large corruption scandals, like the Greek island affair, the Cyril Kern affair and the Martin Schlaff affair, and that there is no doubt that the public will understand it must not give its vote to a list that clearly abandons the rule of law." Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin said, "The conviction of Omri Sharon is a certificate of honor, that it proves that the court is the last dam, preventing Israel from turning into a corrupt Third World country. Tafnit leader Uzi Dayan said the court had not been not severe enough. He said, "The plague of corruption threatens Israeli society and the many recent cases of corruption prove that the issue must be addressed with zero tolerance and harsh sentences." Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.