The entry of secular leftist Yair Lapid into politics may be great news for nationalists. Polls show they will maintain their strength while the opposition splits.
If elections were held today, the nationalist and religious camp would win 66 seats in the Knesset, approximately their current strength, according to a Brain Base (Maagar Mohot)-Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting Institute poll carried out for Channel 10. Kadima, the largest opposition party and headed by Tzipi Livni, would lose more than half of its current 28 seats and end up with only 12 Knesset Members.
Kadima is the weakling of all political parties in Israel as Livni has failed to rise above a monotonous anti-Netanyahu campaign and suggest practical alternatives on political and social issues. Before Lapid's entry, Kadima was slated to lose 11 seats, according to a poll last September.
The Likud, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, would retain its 27 MKs, while Labor, led by Shelly Yechimovich, would lose only one seat.
Virtually all of Lapid’s strength comes from Kadima, the party that was created by Ariel Sharon when he was losing support from his Likud party for the Disengagement program to expel 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif, northern Gaza and four communities in northern Samaria.
Israel’s mainstream media give Lapid 15-20 mandates, but the Brain Base poll shows he would win only seven mandates. The poll assumes the return of Aryeh Deri, who once led the Shas religious party before being convicted of bribery. Most of Deri’s projected support would be at the expense of Shas voters, but he has not yet announced whether he will establish a new party.
The new poll also shows that Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would lose two seats, while the nationalist religious Jewish Home and National Union religious parties would gain two MKs.
The net result of the poll is 66 Knesset Members for the current coalition and only 43 for the opposition, not including 11 mandates for the three parties that are almost entirely represented by Arabs with Israeli citizenship.
The left-wing Haaretz newspaper is unhappy with Lapid. and not because of his apparent splitting of the opposition. “His resignation from [his TV program] marks the end of a one-man masquerade that went well beyond the limits of good taste, journalistic ethics and personal integrity,” wrote the newspaper’s Yossi Verter.
Lapid is vehemently against a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, but four years responded thus to a move by British academics to boycott Israel because of the “occupation”: “While it may be true that the humane thing is to remove the roadblocks and checkpoints, to stop the occupation immediately, to enable the Palestinians freedom of movement in the territories, to tear down the bloody inhumane wall, to promise them the basic rights ensured to every individual -- it’s just that I will end up paying for this with my life."
“Petty of me perhaps to dwell on this point. After all, how important is my life when compared to the chance for peace, justice and equal rights. But still, call me a weakling; call me thickheaded – I don’t want to die.”