Monday, May 2, 2011

Globes poll: Likud and right wing bloc majority strong, Lieberman strengthening following indictment

(Globes).It seems that the recommendation to indict Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman has done him a favor, at least for now. His party, Israel Beiteinu, would win two more Knesset seats to 18, according to a poll by the Rafi Smith Research Institute for "Globes". It appears that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's decision to indict Lieberman not only failed to weaken him, but actually strengthened him and helped to boost his popularity by 20% since the last elections.

Lieberman's strengthening among his supporters is a ringing slap in the face for Israel's law enforcement establishment. As far as the public is concerned, Lieberman is worthy of admiration.

The three additional Knesset seats that Israel Beiteinu has gained in polls since the 2009 elections are more than half way to the goal Lieberman set - to win 20 seats in the next elections. According to the Rafi Smith survey, Liberman is serious. He is not merely mouthing slogans; as he puts it, he keeps his word.

It is possible to attribute Israel Beiteinu's rising support to the recommendation to indict, and it is possible the Lieberman is winning support because of his actions in the government, but one thing is clear: Lieberman is now the strongman of the coalition. The chances of establishing a government without him after the next elections verges on zero.

There is no question that Lieberman has proved that Israel Beiteinu is not an ephemeral phenomenon, and even with the threat of forced resignation after an indictment hanging over his head, he continues to gain strength. Trouble is good for Lieberman. He can now only hope that trouble comes to him in spades.

The additional two Knesset seats that Israel Beiteinu would win, compared with the previous survey a month ago, come at the expense of Kadima and the National Union. Since the last elections, Kadima has lost support equal to two Knesset seats in favor of Israel Beiteinu.

According to Rafi Smith, the right-wing bloc (Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Union, and Jewish Home) without Israel Beiteinu, would win 54 Knesset seats, if elections were held now. The left-wing bloc, headed by Kadima, would win 56 seats if it linked up with Israel Beiteinu. Neither Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can establish a coalition without Lieberman.

Liberman will probably smile at the results of the poll and tell himself, "There is no government with Lieberman now. The next stage is no government without Lieberman as prime minister."

Were elections held now, the three main coalition partners would gain strength. Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas would increase their Knesset seats to 58 from the current 54. But while Shas is unchanged, the Likud and Israel Beiteinu have grown stronger, but not at each other's expense.

There is no doubt that the public's heart is on the right. While Israel's Middle Eastern neighbors are quarrelling amongst themselves, the Israeli public has become more conservative and hardened its positions. The Rafi Smith survey also reflects the mood around President Shimon Peres and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.

Both Kadima and the Likud have more or less kept their strength compared with the previous poll. The biggest change is with the Labor Party, which according to the latest poll has kept it strength rather than collapse, despite the upheaval in the party. David Ben Gurion would undoubtedly turn in his grave if he knew that the veteran party considers winning eight Knesset seats an achievement.

Labor's stability may be due to Amram Mitzna, and it is possible that the primaries will breathe new life into the party. Mitzna is giving the party a boost; the question is how big. It is possible that the rallying of the Labor Party old-timers to the cause carries some weight; the only thing that the Likud can envy.