Livni crushes Olmert in voter poll

Mofaz also strong Kadima candidate for prime minister in next elections.

olmert agape 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert agape 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni poses a serious threat to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Kadima, according to a Shvakim Panorama poll. The poll of 345 Kadima voters found that 49.3 percent believe Livni should be their party's candidate for prime minister in the next election, followed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz with 14.5%, Israel Radio reported Thursday. "None of the above" finished third with 11.6%, followed by 10.1% undecided and 8.7% for Olmert. Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit finished last with 5.8%. In a head-to-head race, Livni would defeat Olmert 60.9% to 24.6%. In a race between Olmert and Mofaz, they would finish even with 31.9%. Livni would beat Mofaz, 59.4% to 23.2%. In a Dahaf Institute poll reported Wednesday, 77% of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with Olmert, while 45% said they would be more supportive if he fired Defense Minister Amir Peretz as Channel 2 reported on Thursday night that he would do so. According to Kadima's constitution, the race will be held ahead of the next general election. Members who join the party in the registration drive that ends in April will be eligible to vote. Mofaz, Sheetrit and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter have made an effort to register new members, but Livni has not. According to the poll, 39.4% of Kadima voters said they would vote for the party again; 42.4% said they were undecided; the rest had decided to shift to Israel Beiteinu, the Likud or Labor. Olmert's aides said they were not worried about the poll results because elections would not take place anytime soon. Livni's spokesman did not return messages. Livni told the Hebrew press last Friday that she would challenge Olmert for the Kadima leadership. She also hinted that she would be willing to bypass steps in the diplomatic process to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. In a speech to the heads of the Union of Local Authorities on Thursday, Livni called for immediate negotiations with moderate Palestinians on a two-state solution. Livni, who was one of the strongest supporters of former prime minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, criticized the move for the first time. "We decided to leave Gaza and take fate in our hands," she said. "When we removed settlements in Gaza, we didn't talk to the Palestinians and it wasn't perceived as a victory for the moderates. We don't need to concede to terror, and we don't need to make concessions in a way that would be perceived as an achievement for terror." Livni's spokesman said the foreign minister did not regret supporting the unilateral withdrawal, but its lesson was that acting unilaterally does not strengthen moderates. MKs on the Right praised Livni for the comments but said she should take responsibility and resign. National Union chairman Benny Elon said it was time for the public to stop supporting politicians who make such mistakes. "I am happy that Tzipi Livni realized her bitter mistake," said National Union MK Zvi Hendel, who was evacuated from the Gush Katif settlement Ganei Tal. "But her public confession of the sin of disengagement raises questions about her judgment and the further dangerous situations into which she could lead the country in the future." Livni's spokesman said the Right's interpretation of her comments was a distortion of her words.