Barak's Popularity Sinks with Mideast Violence
A week of violent clashes between Israel and the Palestinians has further eroded Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's political standing, with two polls published Friday putting him below his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu would receive 53 percent of votes if an election were held today, compared with 36 percent for Barak, according to a poll in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that only surveyed Israel's Jews.
In a second poll that included the country's Arab minority, about 18 percent of the population, 45 percent of Israelis said they would vote for Netanyahu and 40 percent for Barak, with the rest undecided.
But the poll, published in The Jerusalem Post, put Barak well ahead of current right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon, at 43 percent to 31 percent.
Sharon is widely blamed for setting off the past week's violence, in which some 80 people have died, by making a high-profile visit to Jerusalem's disputed mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.
Netanyahu, who was recently cleared from prosecution over a role in a financial scandal, has been flirting with making a comeback for the Likud party leadership, which he abandoned last year after Barak crushed him in elections.
Barak has been without a parliamentary majority since July, when three religious parties left his coalition to protest his reported concessions to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, quoted in Yediot Aharonot Friday, denounced "the image of weakness such a deeply divided Israel gives the Arabs." He called on Israelis to unite faced with the "existential threat" posed by the recent violence.
The Yediot survey found that 67 of Israeli Jews doubt Barak will be able to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians, while 31 percent do.
The two newspapers' surveys had margins of error of 4.5 percentage points --
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)