The red warning light that last week's "Globes"-Rafi Smith poll lit for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should continue flashing, and perhaps there should be a buzzer as well. After the austerity measures and tax hikes this week, the Likud party continues to lose Knesset seats. A poll conducted for "Globes" by the Rafi Smith Institute in the past two days shows that, within a week, Netanyahu has lost another seat, and Likud has reached a low point of 27 projected seats in the Knesset if elections were held now. When this seat is added to the five that Likud lost in the two months up to this week, it is clear that the decline is not a matter of a momentary, passing crisis, but a long-term trend. It's not a collapse, but the continuing weakness undoubtedly raises anxiety levels in Likud.
In May, Netanyahu had 33 projected seats, an election date, and an assured outcome. Now, after the winding and venturesome path he has chosen, he is left with no date, fewer seats, and a much less predictable outcome.
The dissatisfaction with Netanyahu and Likud cannot be attributed solely to spending cuts and tax hikes. In the past two months, Netanyahu has embarked on several moves that have harmed his standing: the formation and dismantling of the unity government with Kadima; the vacillation over drafting of haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) and over the replacement for the Tal law on the matter; the embarrassing, and failed, attempt to break up Kadima; and now the austerity measures that he is imposing on the Israeli public.
The "Globes"-Smith survey finds reveals that almost half the population is unhappy with Netanyahu's conduct of economic policy. Almost half believe that most of the economic decisions that Netanyahu passed this week are not justified. Every time this 46% reach the supermarket checkout, they are reminded of Netanyahu. He hit their pockets directly, and left a hole in their wallets. Most of them are more angry over the rise in VAT than about the rise in income tax or in purchase tax on beer and cigarettes. Raise income tax, they are saying to Netanyahu; just don't raise VAT.
16% of the survey respondents are the last of the capitalists. They think that the austerity measures were partly justified. They apparently share Netanyahu and Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer's outlook, and accept the measures with understanding. The most surprising figure in the survey is that the response of 38% to the measures is anger mixed with understanding. They apparently realize that the economic situation in Israel must not be allowed to replicate Greece and Spain, but, paradoxically, they prefer to see it from those places, and spend their time in the duty free shops waiting for their charter flights to Crete and Barcelona.
Considered against the expressions of catastrophe from some opposition spokespeople, the public has accepted the economic measures with maturity. Netanyahu knows that things could be a great deal worse than losing just one seat.
A week in which he has taken the steps he has could not possibly be good for a prime minister. It turns out that this week has been even less good for Kadima, and the party barely passes the threshold for receiving Knesset seats. In a week like this, Likud should be the biggest loser, but Kadima precedes it. Apparently it has a life, or rather death, of its own. It hardly exists, and is beginning to disappear from the national consciousness. People who would vote for it are ashamed to say so out loud. Soon it won't be pleasant for them to admit that they ever voted for it. It will be interesting to see whether Mofaz and company will continue to promote the move to raise the minimum vote threshold. Probably not.
This is Kadima's swansong, and as it fades, Yair Lapid rises, and exacts vengeance for his father. Whereas the formation of Kadima in 2006 signaled the end of the late Tommy Lapid's political career and led to his Shinui party being wiped off the map, in the 2013 elections the Lapid family will rise again. A boy's revenge.
The 28 Knesset seats that Kadima leaves behind are now looking for an alternative. Its legacy is of 700 thousand people who need to vote for someone. At present, they are scattered among Lapid's Yesh Atid and Shelly Yachimovich's Labor. Both are creating alternatives to Netanyahu and taking Kadima's votes. Netanyahu is paying a heavy price for his social policy, and those who are gaining are those who are identified with the social protest. Even Ehud Barak is making a comeback and taking a seat or two. Only Likud has for the moment stopped benefitting from Kadima's demise.
For anyone tempted to gamble, it's worth putting money on the election being held at the scheduled time. As long as a social/economic agenda prevails, Netanyahu will continue to weaken, and Labor will continue to strengthen. In such a situation, Netanyahu will do everything he can to put off elections for as long as possible.
The figure in parentheses is the number of seats won at the last election. This is followed by projected seats in the Rafi Smith-"Globes" polls conducted on August 1 and July 26.
Likud (27) 27, 28
Labor (13) 19, 18
Israel Beitenu (15) 15, 16
Yesh Atid (-) 13, 11
Shas (11) 9, 9
Arab parties (10) 11, 11
Kadima (28) 4, 7
United Torah Judaism (5) 6, 6
Ichud Leumi (4) 4, 3
Habayit Hayehudi - New National Religious Party (3) 5, 4
Meretz (3) 4, 4
Ha'atzmaut (-) 3, 3
Green Movement (-) 0, 0
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 2, 2012
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012