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Israel's Ruling Kadima Party Plummets in New Poll


A new poll in Israel shows that the popularity of the ruling Kadima party has hit an all time low since it won a landslide victory 10 months ago. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel's embattled prime minister is taking the heat over the war in Lebanon, fought in July and August of last year.

A poll published in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz found that, if elections were held today, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party would fall from power. The survey showed that the hawkish Likud party, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would win by a landslide.

Mr. Olmert's popularity has plummeted since last year's war in Lebanon, which was widely seen as a failure. Despite a massive month-long air and ground assault, Israel was unable to rout some 5,000 Hezbollah guerrillas, who fired an endless barrage of rockets across the border.

According to the poll, only 14 percent of Israelis approve of Mr. Olmert's performance. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who heads the dovish Labor party, fared even worse, with an approval rating of just 10 percent.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens of the Likud party says the Israeli public is fed up.

"The reforms that have to be taken, I don't believe will be, or can be taken under the stewardship of the present political leadership, the prime minister and the defense minister," he said. "They carry the ultimate responsibility for the failure of the second Lebanese war."

The bad news for Mr. Olmert's political opponents is that he has three years remaining in his term. Israeli analyst Gil Hoffman says the opposition has little chance of ousting his government from power.

"It's almost impossible to topple him politically, because he represents a centrist party, and the right and the left are not unified enough to bring him down," he said.

But there is another cloud hovering over the prime minister, and that is a series of corruption scandals.

"The only one who can really bring him down right now is the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz," Hoffman said. "There are seven investigations in the state comptroller's office against him right now. This does not bode well. So, things are good for Ehud Olmert right now, but at any moment it can all collapse."

The Kadima party was founded by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was a general and war hero. Mr. Olmert, who has little military experience, is finding it hard to fill his shoes.

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