Investigative journalist Yoav Yitzchak reports on that the controversial defections by Likud leaders Tzachi HaNegbi and Sha'ul Mofaz to Kadima have hurt Sharon's party, rather than helped. Both HaNegbi and Mofaz were widely accused of opportunism for their sudden moves. HaNegbi left last Thursday, and Mofaz - on Sunday.

Ariel Sharon will apparently compile his party's list of Knesset candidates within two weeks. Yitzchak reports that Sharon has refrained from doing so until now in order to avoid stirring up rivalries among the members. One problem he has is how to juggle between Mofaz and Avi Dichter, both of whom wish to be Defense Minister.

According to the not-yet released polls, support for both the Likud and Labor is increasing. Likud is showing 15-16 seats, while Labor, led by Amir Peretz, is up to 24.

Another poll, by Haaretz/Channel 10, shows Kadima dropping to 35 seats, with Labor receiving 24, and the Likud only 12.

The Likud is to choose its leader this Monday in nation-wide party primaries. If no candidate receives at least 40% of the vote, a run-off between the top two candidates will be held the Monday afterwards, Dec. 26. It is widely felt that after a leader is chosen and the party begins to recover from the blows it has recently suffered - namely, the departure of its leader Ariel Sharon and a third of the MKs - support for the Likud will further increase.

At present, four candidates are running for Likud party leader: front-runner ex-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, and Jewish Leadership faction leader Moshe Feiglin. Netanyahu is supported by leading Likud figures MKs Ruby Rivlin, Uzi Landau, Natan Sharansky, and others. No MKs have endorsed any of the other candidates.

According to a Channel Ten survey, the most recent published Likud poll, Netanyahu receives 40%, Shalom - 23%, Feiglin- 9%, and Katz - only 2%. If a second round occurs, the poll shows Netanyahu handily defeating Shalom.