Less than two weeks have passed since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to abandon Likud and form a new party and day by day the prevailing feeling among Israelis is that the former general will sweep to victory in the general elections slated for March 28.
The picture is not as rosy however for the party that Sharon abandoned as poll after poll point to a crushing defeat for Likud. As Likud hopefuls prepare for the primaries battle to inherit Sharon’s throne, Likud members have little faith their party will do well in the elections.
A poll published Friday in Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth showed 53 percent of Likud members believe the man who betrayed them, Ariel Sharon, will be Israel’s next prime minister, in comparison to a dim 25 percent who said whoever wins the Likud primaries will lead the party to victory.
As Sharon and his aides consume the dividends of the prime minister’s latest political adventure which received a boost on Wednesday with veteran Shimon Peres announcing his departure from Labor to support Sharon’s Kadima faction, back in the Likud the atmosphere is heating up as members lick their wounds in preparations for the primaries.
The accusation finger for Likud’s failure to remain united is clearly pointed to Sharon: 50 percent of Likud members polled in the Yedioth-Dahaf survey blamed the prime minister for the split as opposed to 23 percent who blamed the Likud rebels, and 17 percent accused Sharon’s archrival former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for their party’s misery.
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom are the three main candidates who will be battling it out in the Likud primaries set for December 19.
Netanyahu is the favorite to succeed Sharon among Likud members as 39 percent of respondents supported the former prime minister and finance minister, as opposed to 21 percent support for Mofaz and 14 percent for Shalom.