Thursday, December 25, 2008

Israeli Election Polls: Likud Still On Top

Recently released Israeli election polls show that Kadima has narrowed the gap with the Likud to just four seats - within the margin of error of the polls. Below are the results of a Dec 15 poll by the Maagar Mochot agency.

Dec. 2008

Nov. 2008

Likud - "mainstream" right wing nationalist



Kadima - incumbent "moderate" nationalist



Shas - sephardic ultra orthodox , also against "major" territorial compromise, or even discussing the status of Jerusalem.



Yisrael Beiteinu - hard line nationalist, backs "transfer" of Israeli Arabs, mostly Russian immigrants



Meretz / Tnua Hadasah - left dovish Zionist



Labour - "mainstream" centrist



Yahadut Hatorah - ashkenazi ultra orthodox



Habayit Hayehudit - merger of old National Union and NRP, religious Zionist, against any territorial compromise.



Yerukim / Meimad - merger of the "Greens" and the moderate religious party



Gil - retired people’s party



Arab Parties



Source: Maagar Mochot / Israel Radio
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 506 Israeli adults, conducted on Dec. 15, 2008. Margin of error is 4.5 per cent.

Partial polls by Dahaf and other agencies released in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz show similar results (Likud 30, Kamida 26, Shas 12, Yisrael Beitenu 12, Labour 10, Meretz 8, Gil 2)

Several things of note:

1) There are at least 3 "Arab" parties with realistic shots at obtaining Knesset seats, yet the Jewish Israeli media don't bother to distinguish between them. That attitude alone explains a lot about the Israel/Palestine mess. One of the "Arab" parties is Hadash - the Front for Democracy and Peace, dominated by the Israeli Communist Party. It runs a joint Jewish Arab list and has both Arab and Jewish representatives in the Knesset. Its candidate for mayor of Tel-Aviv came in 2nd in the recent municipal elections. (See my previous posting about the Tel Aviv municipal election.) I have several Israeli - Jewish - friends who vote Hadash. Yet it is lumped in with "Arab Parties."

2) Labour is reduced to an "also ran": tied for fourth place.

3) Despite Kadima closing the gap, if the election results mirrored the results above, the Likud would form the next government and Netanyahu would be the next Prime Minister.

The Likud has the "natural" support of it own 29 seats plus 12 of Yisrael Beitenu and 4 of HaBayit HaYehudit: for a total of 45. Plus it can relatively easily work out a coalition agreement with the right leaning ultra orthodox parties: Shas (12), and Yahadut Hatorah (6). That gives it a total of 63. You need 61 seats to form a majority government in Israel. In addition the Likud could also work out deal with Gil (1), maybe the Yerukim(4), and even Labour could be bought - if Ehud Barak where promised the Defense Ministry (his ego has no bounds!)

Kadima on the other hand, has the "natural" support of its own 25 projected seats, plus Labour's 10 and Meretz's 10: for a total of 45. It could also easily work out a deal with Gil(1) and the Yerukim(4). That makes for a total of 50. Then it would have to work out a coalition deal with the ultra orthodox, and hawkish, Shas (12), in order to get over the 60 seat threshold. Devising a coalition agreement that would satisfy both Meretz and Shas would be an exceedingly hard feat to pull off.

Finally, given the Israeli system, and assuming the results above, the Likud would likely be given the first chance to try to form a government. Only if it failed to put together a coalition, would Kadima even get a chance to try. With the numbers above, the Likud won't fail.

4) Note that neither leading party would even consider asking for the support of the "Arab" parties.

5) The elections are still 6 weeks away, and things could change. But it would take a swing of 10 seats from the Likud orbit to the Kadima orbit to allow Kadima to form a cohesive coalition. That seems unlikely to happen.

6) The Gaza situation in particular will become an election issue, one way or the other. The pressure for Israel to strike back militarily is mounting by the hour. Even the normally "dovish" Meretz is calling for military action (which may be politically "wise", but without a parallel negotiating strategy vis a vis Hamas, is very bad policy, and very bad public education.) If Israel does not strike, the Likud and its allies will accuse Kadima and Labour of being weak and foolish. If Israel does strike and the rocketing does not stop, or Israel looses many soldiers, the Likud and its allies will accuse Kadima and Labour of being incompetent. (Sadly, I doubt any one is thinking about what would really be best for achieving long term quiet - or, dare we dream, justice - on the Gaza front. That will have to wait for after the elections - at least.)


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