Israel's Labour party popularity up
AFP, Wednesday 28 Sep 2011
Israel's Labour party, fresh from electing a new leader, is rising in opinion polls, to become Israel's second party if elections were held today

A poll published in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, found that Israel’s Labour party would increase its seats in the Knesset (parliament) to 26 from the eight it now holds, were elections held Wednesday.

That would lift the once-dominant political party into second place in the Knesset, behind the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which the poll found would increase its seats to 32 from 27.

Labour's rising popularity would come at the expense of the Kadima party, the centrist party led by Tzipi Livni, which would lose 10 seats, falling to 18, the poll said.

Yisrael Beitenu, the ultra-nationalist party of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would lose five seats in an immediate election, falling to 10 from its current 15, the survey said.

However, pollster Keevoon Research said Russian voters, who are a key constituency for Yisrael Beitenu, were under-represented among respondents and the survey might not accurately depict the party's popularity.

The survey comes two days after a similar poll, published in Haaretz newspaper, also indicated that Labour would become Israel's second party if elections were held immediately.

Both polls were taken after the Labour party ended the leadership vacuum that followed former chief Ehud Barak's decision to leave the faction in January to form his own political movement, Independence.

After two rounds of voting, Labour elected Shelly Yachimovich, a former journalist, who beat competition from her former mentor and one-time party leader Amir Peretz.

The Jerusalem Post poll also questioned Israelis on their views of the leaders of the country's main political parties, with Yachimovich coming out on top with a 56 per cent favourable rating.

Netanyahu had a 50 per cent favourable rating, compared to Lieberman with 47 per cent and 39 per cent for Livni.

The results also found that most Israelis feel US President Barack Obama is pursuing policies that favour the Jewish state, with 56 per cent saying his administration's policies are more beneficial to Israel than the Palestinians.

Just 19 per cent said the US leader's policies favoured the Palestinians, while 27 per cent called his policies neutral.

The poll surveyed 506 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 points, the Post said.