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This post contains both the Ha'aretz commentary regarding their latest Israel election poll, and the poll results, as transmitted by IMRA, and some notes by yours truly. These polls show less of a gain for Labor than the ones of December 17, but the other polls were from a different source. Relative to the previous polls of the same organization, Likud has lost about 6 seats. Interpreting the polls is not straightforward, because Israeli respondents are not always truthful and because of the complex nature of Israeli coalition politics. There are still many "undecided" votes.
The polls and commentary were originally transmitted to MidEastWeb News Service, which features detailed daily coverage of Middle East News.
Shinui leader Tomi Lapid clarified today on Israel radio that he would be willing to be in a unity government headed by either Labor or Likud, but would probably not join a government with Shas, UTJ or Arab parties. Labor leader Amram Mitzna said he would be pleased to form a unity government with himself as head. The ultraorthodox Shas party has lost ground because of internal dissension over suppression of ousted leader Arieh Der'i, jailed on corruption charges and his supporters, and because of the change in the election law. However, a Shas spokesman noted that their party always outdid the predictions of polls. This is usually due to exceptionally high participation by their voters. In some districts, as many as 102% of registered voters have voted for Shas in past elections.
The high percentage of voters who refuse to anwer, noted by IMRA's Aaron Lerner, should also be interpreted in the light of the fact that ultra-orthodox voters often refuse to disclose their inclinations to surveys.
Tomi Lapid remarked on Israel Radio's B network today (December 20) that the larger parties would both begin attacking Shinui innacurately as a one-issue party as it became apparent that those parties were losing voters to Shinui. Shinui's major platform innovations support enactment of a constitution and repeal of laws favoring ultra-orthodox parties.
07:11 19/12/2002Last update - 11:47 19/12/2002
Ha'aretz poll: 14.7% of Likud voters waver due to bribery probe
By Yossi Verter
The storm surrounding the corruption scandal during the Likud primaries earlier this month is still blowing hard, and no-one has managed to come up with "the ultimate spin" to get the affair off the front pages.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisors are no longer speaking in terms of doubling their strength in the Knesset.
Instead, they stand helpless in the face of the tempest of headlines. Theirs is a Sisyphian task, a losing battle: even the lowliest of central committee members can present himself to the offices of the National Fraud Squad in Bat Yam and earn himself a great deal more than 15 minutes of fame, at the expense of the Sharon and the Likud.
The advisors, of course, are not allowed to brief those giving their account of the affair to police, otherwise the face accusations of hindering the police investigation. They can't, much to their chagrin, declare war on a neighboring country or find a nuclear reactor to bomb. There is nothing positive on the horizon that could help distract the public's attention. Only President Bush and his war on Iraq can save the day, and so far, he's keeping quiet.
The most worrying statistic for Likud must be that almost 15 percent of Likud voters say that, as a result of the primaries scandal and the subsequent police investigation, they are less likely to vote Likud on January 28.
The growing feeling of unease in the hearts of Sharon's advisors is based on objective figures: when voters who backed Labor in the 1999 election were asked, just one week ago, whether they could envisage switching to Likud, 16 percent of them said they could.
In the most recent poll, less than half of that number gave the same answer.
Inching to the left
Another bleak figure for the Likud to contemplate: when those identifying themselves as Likud voters were asked how the police investigation into alleged corruption at the party's primaries would affect their vote, 15 percent said that they were now less likely to back Sharon.
As long as the investigations, the revelations, the headlines and the arrests go on, more and more of the wavering voters will make the switch to the left, and the blocs will inch toward parity.
Labor and Shinui have also picked up on this potential phenomenon, but while Shinui rushed out with a campaign as soon as the storm erupted, Labor bided its time, letting the media do the job for it. Labor waited until yesterday before launching poster campaign on thousands of bus shelters: "Mitzna leading with straight politics," and "Only Mitzna can! Not the Likud."
The shift in the electorate over the past week highlights a complex triangle with the following sides: Labor-Shinui, Likud-Shinui and Likud-Shinui. As a result of the bribery scandal, Likud has lost six seats. The voters that went over to Shinui can be defined as moderate-right, who looked for a home in the Likud and, finding dirt, are moving over to Shinui, which has a squeaky-clean image. The move is relatively painless and does not entail any great heart-wrenching. After all, the only thing Shinui is committed to is hating the ultra-Orthodox.
The second group is much more interesting: those who identify with the Likud because it is the party in power, but as soon as they realized that this is no way to run a ruling party, turned to Labor, the only other party seemingly capable of taking over at the helm of the country. The first group is looking for integrity; the second, power. Those who defected to Shinui view it as a rightist party.
Playing the game
At the same time, fully 40 percent of Shinui voters define themselves as leftists, and therein is Labor's pool of potential supporters. Shinui, for its part, refuses to play the game and remains outside the leftist bloc. "We won't join any government with Labor and the Arabs, and we won't join any government with Likud and the ultra-Orthodox," declares Lapid. "We will force a national unity government with Labor, Likud and Shinui sharing power."
The survey also shows that most voters opposed renewing peace talks with the Palestinians, as long as there is no cessation of terror attacks. But, interestingly, 19 percent of Likud voters would support such talks. Labor chairman Amram Mitzna could see in that a sign of support from Likudniks for his policy of negotiating with Palestinian Authority
The survey also reveals that Meretz has stopped losing voted to Labor, and that the Yossi Beilin's defection has lead to a one-seat increase. Some Meretz insiders have expressed the hope that Beilin will earn them a 10th seat in the Knesset, and, being 11th on the list, miss out.
Dialogue/Ha'aretz Poll Result - 23 seats for "refuse reply" party
Aaron Lerner Date: 19 December 2002
To Ha'aretz's credit, the table published in the Hebrew edition indicates
The following are the results of a Dialogue poll of a representative sample
Right/Religious Bloc: Total 62 - from 54 current Knesset 
"Center" Total 18 from 19 current Knesset 
[Shinui leader MK Lapid announced yesterday that he would not join in a bloc
Left/Arabs: Total 40 from 47 current Knesset 
Will you vote?
There are three methods according to which parties select their candidates
Party members 38.7% Central committee 17.6% Committee 31.8%
Which party has the most attractive top five candidates: Labor or Likud?
After the elections would you support negotiations with the Palestinians as
Asked to Likud voters:
Does the fact that the police are carrying out a criminal investigation of
If it turns out that a candidate for the Knesset was involved in bribery
[Ha'aretz 19 December 2002]
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
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