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Netanyahu predicts election turnaround
Gil Stern Stern Hoffman
03/27/2006
"The polls have not been complimentary for months," says Uzi Landau.
Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu expressed confidence on Monday that the Likud would still win the election, despite polls predicting that the party would fall to its lowest number of seats since its predecessor, Herut, won only 15 in 1955. Needing an Election Day miracle, Netanyahu visited the Western Wall Monday and toured the excavations at the junction of the western and southern walls. Surrounded by a swarm of photographers, Netanyahu was not able to pray or place a note in the cracks of the Wall, but he told reporters he did not believe polls predicting the Likud does not have a prayer. "The polls will turn around," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu was joined on the tour by Likud MKs Yuval Steinitz, Reuven Rivlin, Limor Livnat, Uzi Landau, Gilad Erdan, Haim Katz and Yuli Edelstein. The MKs joined Netanyahu in publicly expressing optimism, but privately they spoke openly about replacing Netanyahu and complained about the way he ran the Likud campaign. Landau, who is 14th on the Likud list, said he was not concerned about polls published on Monday that indicated that the party would get only 12 or 13 seats. "The polls have not been complimentary for months." Landau said. "We need to work hard to bring out the voters to make the pollsters eat their polls - and praying at the Wall could not hurt either." Netanyahu explained the Likud's downfall in the polls by saying that if every Israeli had visited the Old City of Jerusalem, the Likud would win the election. He warned Israelis of the dangers of Kadima and the necessity of keeping the Likud strong. "Without a strong Likud, we will not have sovereignty in Jerusalem," Netanyahu told reporters at the site. "Only a strong Likud can maintain Jerusalem. Kadima and the Left will divide Jerusalem and once you start dividing, you never know where it's going to end. There is no way to safeguard Jerusalem without the nationalist camp and there is no nationalist camp without the Likud." Rivlin spoke about growing up as a child in the capital and dreaming about praying at the Western Wall. He lamented the fact that so many Israelis have lost faith that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. "When the Likud mayor of Jerusalem [referring to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] warned in 1996 that Peres would divide Jerusalem, I did not believe him," Rivlin said. "But apparently what he meant was that he would divide Jerusalem together with Peres in the government." Steinitz said that the Kadima candidates who had expressed readiness to negotiate handing over east Jerusalem to the Palestinians were opening up a Pandora's box that would lead to Hamas taking over the Temple Mount. "Without the Likud, Jerusalem is in danger, and without Jerusalem there is no State of Israel," Steinitz said. Following the visit to the Old City, Netanyahu and the Likud MKs went to the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters to call undecided voters. Landau spent the rest of the day touring streets around the country named after Likud icons Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. Netanyahu will vote on Tuesday near his Jerusalem home. He will then visit polling stations in Hadera, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan, Bat Yam and Rishon Lezion before returning home to watch election broadcasts on television. Late Tuesday night, he is expected to come to the Likud's election headquarters at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds to make a speech announcing his future.
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