Peace talks boost Likud

The latest Smith Institute poll for "Globes" finds the Likud and Labor both gaining at the expense of Yesh Atid.

The resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians is benefitting the Likud, restoring its political fortunes after a long slide. While this may seem oxymoronic, the latest survey by the Smith Institute for "Globes", the first since the peace talks resumed, found that support for the Likud has risen to 33 Knesset seats - two more than it won in the January elections. Not even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected this.

Yesterday, in the Knesset cafeteria, Netanyahu was asked if peace had broken out. This sentence also has an internal contradiction. This was the second time in a week that Netanyahu sat in the cafeteria - twice as many times as he sat there during his entire previous four-year term. His fear of correspondents' questions, responses from MKs and ministers, which kept him away, has gone.

The resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians is good for the Labor Party, which rose to 18 Knesset seats in the new poll, one more than in the elections and its highest performance since them. It is good for Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich ahead of the party's primaries, but that is not the story.

All in all, the Likud and Labor's rebound is logical, even natural, as the peace process again makes them the two dominant parties representing the right and left, respectively. The real story is the weakening of Yesh Atid, led by Minister of Finance Yair Lapid. He should take heed of the warning lights, not because the party has fallen to 14 Knesset seats, its lowest number since the elections, in which it won 19 seats, but because of the trend.

In early May, the Smith-"Globes" poll gave Lapid 30 Knesset seats; a month later it had 18 seats, and in July - 14 seats. Yesh Atid has slumped from its showing of 19 seats in the elections, but compared with the May poll, it has crashed. If the trend continues, by the start of the Knesset's winter session, he could find himself with support for a single-digit party, which ought to worry him ahead of the next elections, in which he saw himself sitting in the Prime Minister's Office.

Labor and Meretz have picked up five Knesset seats from disaffected Yesh Atid voters. Lapid was not hurt by the austerity measures or the budget that the Knesset passed this week - the public admires courage - but by its sense that it is being fed contradictory messages. After the elections, the public was promised that the middle class would have it better, but the voters are discovering that there is no ideology, no consistency, no new politics. Lapid's sole solace is that the peace process is blurring the impact of the austerity measures, and sent them to the newspapers' back pages. But this raises a different problem: Yesh Atid is irrelevant in the peace process.

Two other parties have gained ground between the June poll and the July poll: Meretz has gained one seat, moving from nine to ten (it won six seats in the elections); and Shas has gained two seats, going from nine to eleven (it won eleven seats in the elections). Kadima has disappeared altogether. All the other parties are unchanged: Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni's Hatnua has three seats (down from six in the elections); and the Arab parties Hadash, Raam-Taal, and Balad have eleven seats between them, unchanged from the elections.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on August 1, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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