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RISE OF ISRAELS FAR RIGHT

Likud's Bibi Netanyahu: Likud Party Vote Will Pave The Way For Home-Stretch Bid To Catch Kadima's Olmert In Election Campaign

Kadima Loses Two Mandates In the Polls Slipping To Thirty-Seven

Labors Amir Peretz Tries To Cash In By Meeting Mahmoud Abbas But Big Surprise Of Campaign Is Rise Of Far Right Parties

Netanyahu | Peretz

The Israeli election campaign is finally moving into high gear. The opposition parties are stepping up their drives to try and catch up with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima before election-day on march 28. this, as Olmerts Kadima party dips in the latest polls.

PM Olmert

Has Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started slipping in Israels election campaign? The latest poll indicates he is and the opposition parties and the opposition are now going for broke hoping they can turn it into a slippery slope before election-day on March 28th. Olmert and Kadima will have to counter and quickly. With time starting to run out, the opposition parties are stepping up their campaigns to try and catch Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmerts Kadima party. Labors Amir Peretz was off to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who Foreign Minister Zippi Livni calls irrelevant after the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election. Peretz is taking a big gamble and will undoubtedly face a lot of flak over the visit. But his failure in the campaign leaves him no choice but to go for broke. The Likud's Bibi Netanyahu has gambled and won by forcing his party's central committee to relinquish its power to select the list of candidates.

Netanyahu declares: This move cannot be overestimated and will boost my chances for catching up with Olmert by election-day on March 28th. It could not have come at a better time for Netanyahu after the latest poll shows Kadima is slipping in the campaign - Kadima has dropped from 39 to 37 seats. Look for Kadima to start launching a tougher campaign against Netanyahu and Peretz as well as reacting with greater force to the mounting Palestinian terror attacks.

Rise Of Far Right: One surprise in this election campaign is the showing of two far right parties National Union and Yisrael Beitenu. Together the polls indicate they take 18 mandates, outnumbering the Likud itself. Yisrael Beitenu is lead by Avigdor Lieberman immigrated from the former Soviet Union who is a feisty campaigner who has garnered strong support from Russian Israeli voters for his tough talk rejecting the Roadmap and proposing that Israel jettison its Israeli Arabs in the Arab Triangle to the Palestinian Authority. The National Union, which has amalgamated with the National Religious Party, draws its strength from settlers in the territories and right-wingers who have been disillusioned with the Likud. At this stage the far right parties have been outflanking the Likud with their tougher stance. They blame the Likud for the Gaza withdrawal and contend that the Likud and Kadima are one and the same. In order to challenge centrist Kadima, the Likud has tried to portray itself as a right of center party with a Capital R and a small c - this, as opposed to Kadima with a Capital C and a small r. It has not worked; the Likud has been going nowhere fast with only 15 mandates to show. Party leader Bibi Netanyahu has gambled and now won with his bid to defang the Likud central committee, which acquired a notorious reputation. The powerful body of only 3,000 members exploited its power to select the party of Knesset members and kept the MKs at their mercy. (Former Likud cabinet minister Zachi Hanegbi may be indicted for handing out jobs to central committee members and MK Naomi Blumenthal has already been sentenced to nine months behind bars). Netanyahu has forced the central committee to relinquish its power to party primaries, which will undoubtedly improve the Likud's image.

Netanyahu now contends: The Likud will become the cleanest party in the country. However, a senior Likud official believes the step will garner only a couple of mandates in the polls. Netanyahu has argued that the Likud unsavory image has hampered his ability in the campaign and says he will now take off in the campaign. He does have a point when it comes to the poll on voter perception of the individual suitability of the party leaders to be prime minister. Although, Kadima leads the Likud by more than 2-1 this is not the case in the Olmert-Netanyahu match-up. Israel voters give Olmert a 30% rating, Netanyahu 25% with Labors Amir Peretz trailing with 15%. This is why the Likud still believes Kadima is vulnerable.

David Essing

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