Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Polls taken last week immediately after Binyamin Netanyahu announced that new elections would take place this winter showed the Likud handily dominating the Knesset, and rightwing garnering enough seats to build a comfortable coalition around the Prime Minister. None of the leading candidates of any of the other parties – Kadima's Shaul Mofaz, Labor's Shelly Yechimovich, or Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid – were considered even remote contenders.

If one contender cannot beat Netanyahu, how about three? A new poll released Thursday claims that a party led by Lapid, along with retired Kadima heads Tsipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, could garner enough seats to overcome the Likud, and form a new government.

The poll, taken on behalf of Ha'aretz by Professor Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, lays out three scenarios – covering what would happen if the prospective party were headed by each of the three. In a “standard” election, in which each party runs separately, the Likud still dominates, with 29 seats to Labor's 20, with Kadima and Yesh Atid getting 8 and 11 respectively. A second scenario has Livni joining with Yechimovich to form a united front against the Likud; the Likud beats that coalition with 27 seats, to 24 for the Yechimovich-Livni team.

The third scenario describes a “super party,” in which Lapid, Olmert, and Livni join forces to run against Netanyahu. In that situation, the poll shows the new party gaining 25 Knesset seats, compared to 24 for the Likud. Curiously, that scenario has Aryeh Deri heading Shas – and receiving three to four more seats than Shas in its current form. The poll seems to imply that in such a scenario, the Likud, with its rightwing voter base, would lose three seats to a leftish Shas headed by Deri. Such a Shas would presumably have no problem joining with Olmert and Livni, although it is not clear how they could work with Yair Lapid, who has made Hareidi service in the IDF the centerpiece of his campaign.

Both Olmert and Livni are former heads of Kadima. Olmert resigned as party head when he quit the office of Prime Minister, in the wake of numerous corruption charges against him. Several of those charges are still outstanding, and Olmert has by no means been cleared of all the charges against him. Livni was booted out of Kadima earlier this year over the party's continued weakness in the polls.

Despite the success of this coalition, however, the left would still not have enough seats to form a government; the rightwing, led by Netanyahu, would still be able to form a coalition of 63 seats, assuming the left coalition did not include Arab parties.

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