Twice as many MKs pick Bibi over Livni

Twice as many MKs pick Netanyahu to form gov't; Rabbi Yosef: Voting Lieberman is voting "for devil"

Bibi speaking 298.88 (photo credit: sasson tiram)
Bibi speaking 298.88
(photo credit: sasson tiram)
Twice as many lawmakers will recommend to President Shimon Peres that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu form the next government as will back Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, according to a survey conducted by The Jerusalem Post. A final poll taken for Channel 10 on Friday, before a moratorium on surveys took effect, found that Likud's lead over Kadima had fallen to only two seats. The Dialog poll gave Likud 27 seats, Kadima 25, Israel Beiteinu 19 and Labor 14. With Tuesday's race so close and with both Netanyahu and Livni claiming that they want to lead a "wide national-unity government," attention turned to whom Peres will call upon to form a coalition. According to Basic Law: The President, "following elections to the Knesset, the president consults with all the elected parliamentary factions and then officially assigns the task of forming a new government to the head of the faction with the best chances of forming a government." Three factors that presidents have traditionally taken into account when assigning the task of forming a government were which faction won the most seats, whether the Right or Left bloc was larger, and which leader received the most recommendations from MKs during the president's consultations. In the event of a close race, the endorsements of the factions could play a larger role than usual. A survey of the factions over the weekend found that the Likud had the backing of its own MKs and those of Shas, Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union and most likely United Torah Judaism. The only lawmakers certain to back Livni would be her own party's MKs and those of Meretz. Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who is close to party chairman Avigdor Lieberman, said his faction would recommend that either Netanyahu or Lieberman himself form the next government. Labor MKs said that while no decision had been made, when Livni tried to form a coalition in October, they recommended to Peres that Labor chairman Ehud Barak form a government and not Livni. Livni will not be able to count on the support of the three Arab factions, whose MKs are still upset at her for her role in Operation Cast Lead and for saying in December that in the event of the formation of a Palestinian state, the national aspirations of Israeli Arabs "lie elsewhere." "What Livni said about us is worse than Lieberman," United Arab List-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said on Saturday night. "That's why we won't recommend to Peres that Livni form a government." Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakeh said that "Tzipi Livni is not an option for us and neither is Barak or Netanyahu. I don't see us recommending someone who supported the war." Kadima officials responded that such speculation did not matter, because the factions would reconsider their views if Livni won the election. They said the fact that the Right bloc is expected to be much larger than the Left was also irrelevant, because Livni intends to form a centrist government with factions from both sides. "If Livni receives a single vote more than Netanyahu, everything will start anew," a Kadima source said. Meanwhile, Shas's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, sharpened his attack on Israel Beiteinu on Saturday, saying that those who vote for Lieberman's party "support the devil." "They are people with no Torah, people who want civil marriage, pork stores and drafting yeshiva students. My heart is heavy. They must not support them, it is forbidden. Whoever does so, his sin is too great to bear. Whoever does so supports the devil." Livni, meanwhile, sent Netanyahu a letter on Friday pleading with him to allow a debate before Tuesday's election. "I do not understand what it is you fear," she wrote the Likud leader. "The public in Israel yearns for information on the programs of the different candidates. It must certainly be clear to you as well that it is not enough to vote based on threats and fears. "There is a justified demand from those who want to take up the highest of responsibilities to specify with which policies they plan to cope with the threats, how they intend to change Israel's position and lead it to a better future of peace and quiet." The Likud declined to respond to the letter. In an effort to close the gap with Netanyahu, Kadima will start a new campaign on Sunday under the banner "Only voting Tzipi can beat Bibi." The campaign is intended to sway enough voters away from Labor and Meretz for Kadima to defeat the Likud. Netanyahu has been conducting a similar campaign over the past week to win away votes from the Likud's satellite parties on the right. He reiterated in a speech in Jerusalem on Saturday night that there was no guarantee that he would win the election and warned that if he did not win by a margin that would enable him to form a stable government, there could have to be another election soon. All the candidates spent the final weekend of the campaign trying to win last-minute votes. Livni held rallies in Jerusalem and Tamra for women and Druse, Netanyahu spoke in Jerusalem, and Barak campaigned in Tel Aviv and Ra'anana. Livni attacked Lieberman at a rally in the Druse town of Tamra on Saturday night. "There are those who appeal to the feelings of hatred in the public, [but] I am not one of them," she said. Shas chairman Eli Yishai shook hands with shoppers in Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda market. Israel Beiteinu and National Union candidates campaigned in Sderot. Green Movement-Meimad leader Rabbi Michael Melchior toured pubs in Jerusalem on Thursday night, while party activists cleaned up the sea and the beaches in Eilat.