[Freemanlist2] Gil Ronen, Nissan Ratzlav-Katz- Likud Gains Strength in Latest Voter Poll + Comments

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   Likud Gains Strength in Latest Voter Poll 
  by Gil Ronen - Arutz Sheva
     A new poll shows Likud with a commanding lead, as the political arena is headed with increasing certainty towards elections. The Haaretz-Dialogue poll asked voters which party they would vote for if elections were held today. It shows Likud with 35 Knesset seats, compared with 29 in an April poll and 12 in the current Knesset. However, pollster Prof. Camille Fuchs noted that the Likud had reached 35 seats in previous polls, and that its relatively low April figure was the result of news reports about Binyamin Netanyahu's less-than-frugal accommodations and entertainment spending on a trip to London during the Second Lebanon War.
  The poll shows Labor with 19 potential MKs (the same as in the current Knesset); Kadima with just 13 MKs (compared with 29 in the current Knesset, and down from 15 in April). Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) would receive 11 MKs, the same as in the current Knesset, and Shas would get 11 MKs, one less than in today's Knesset. 
  NU/NRP Drops
UTJ and Meretz keep their current power with 6 and 5 MKs respectively. National Union/National Religious Party drops precipitously from 9 to 5 MKs and the Pensioners retire from the Knesset, with no seats
If the result of the elections approximates the poll's result, this would probably lead to the establishment of a coalition led by Likud.
 forecast. Gaydamak's party receives 2 seats (down from 4 in April's poll) and the Green party gets two seats as well. The Arab lists retain their overall power, with a total of 11 seats compared to 10 in the current Knesset.
  If the result of the elections approximates the poll's result, this would probably lead to the establishment of a coalition led by Likud, with Kadima, or at least some of its more hawkish members, as well as Shas, Israel Our Home and NU/NRP. This would total up to about 70 MKs and would give Netanyahu's coalition a solid base.
  Security over peace
The poll also asked voters which party they would vote for if Netanyahu headed the Likud, Tzipi Livni headed Kadima and Ehud Barak headed Labor. The numbers changed: Likud received only 29 MKs, Kadima shot up to 23 and Labor dropped to 15. Still, the findings were completely out of line with a Yediot Acharonot poll earlier this month which showed Kadima with 27 seats and Likud with just 23 seats in a similar scenario. 
  When asked what should be the most important subject on the next government's agenda, 47% of the public chose "national security and fighting terrorism." 25% picked "advancement of peace with the Palestinians and Syrians" and 18% chose the economy.
  When asked what trait is the most important for a candidate for Prime Minister, 40% answered "not corrupt," 23% said "cares about the country's security" and 19% chose "advances peace." 

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  Min. Barak: The Die Has Been Cast, Prepare for Elections  by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz 
     Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as chairman of the Labor party, told his colleagues on Thursday to get ready for elections by the end of this year. In the ruling Kadima party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni condemned the moral corruption exposed in recent days and said that Kadima should be prepared for any political development. 
Minister Barak said Kadima was suffering from "moral paralysis."

  Addressing a meeting of the Labor party directorate in Tel Aviv, Minister Barak announced, "The die has been cast, and it is now necessary to prepare for elections." To that end, Barak said that he had already assigned the party's General Secretary, Eitan Cabel, the task of "immediately putting together an election campaign staff for the coming elections." 
  Barak said Kadima was suffering from "moral paralysis" in that it was not able to address the "burning values issue." According to Barak, Kadima has a moral obligation to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is now facing several serious corruption investigations, for the sake of maintaining "appropriate norms" in the public sphere. 
  However, Barak left his party a single political back door, in the event that Kadima makes the internal changes he suggested: "We have an interest in regime stability, and we are willing to establish a new government in this Knesset, but in my estimation, we are headed towards elections, possibly even before the end of this year." 
  "Olmert and his party need to make some decisions. If they won't, then we'll make the decisions for them," Barak declared. 
  Speaking with the press, Labor party Knesset Member Ophir Pines laid down a clearer ultimatum: "If Kadima does not hold primaries in the next week or two, then we will ask the Knesset to call early elections." 
  Livni and Barak Agree: Kadima Must Act Now
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Livni, a Kadima party member alongside Prime Minister Olmert, said, "I believe in Kadima, but I think that we must prepare for any scenario, principally for elections." 
  Regarding replacing the leadership of Kadima, Livni said, without mentioning the Prime Minister by name, "I am a big believer in primaries. I think it is correct to include most of the public in the decision as to who the leadership is to be." Kadima party bylaws, however, currently have no mechanism for open primaries.  
  Foreshadowing statements made by the defense minister later in the day, Livni said, "Kadima must make some decisions as to what it is doing. It is not possible to ignore events of the last few days. It is not just a legal matter, it is not just a criminal matter, and it is not just a personal matter of the Prime Minister. We are talking about questions of values and norms and their effect on the level of trust the public has in Israeli politics." 
  The Foreign Minister said that Kadima must be the leader in the coming political developments, rather than being passive "while Ehud Barak threatens to force early elections with [Likud leader Binyamin] Netanyahu and the Shas party."
  Livni made the comments to reporters during a conference on homeland security at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. 
Saar, chairman of the opposition Likud party's Knesset faction, chastised both Livni and Barak for hypocrisy.

  Skepticism Among Some MKs
The dramatic statements by the two most senior ministers, who of necessity work closest with the Prime Minister in matters of state, led to critical remarks from some MKs. 
  MK Gideon Saar, chairman of the opposition Likud party's Knesset faction, chastised both Livni and Barak for hypocrisy. It is impossible to reconcile talk of "values and norms and to simultaneously remain in Olmert's government," Saar said, adding that values are promoted by personal example. 
  MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party), cautiously optimistic over the political developments for his right-wing opposition faction, warned Barak that "the public will not put up with another round of his zigzags and doublespeak." 
  Far-left MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) praised Barak, but said that his moves are "too little, too slow and without a timetable."

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