Overwhelming majority of Israel think Olmert was right to quit

An overwhelming number of Israelis think Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was right to announce his intention to step down from the premiership, a poll published Friday revealed.

A massive 91 per cent of respondents in the poll in the Ma'ariv daily said Olmert made the right decision when he said Wednesday night that he would resign once his Kadima party chose a new leader on September 17.

However polls published in three Israeli dailies Friday were far from uniform on whether any of Olmert's possible successors as Kadima leader could lead the centrist party to victory in elections, reported dpa.

The Ma'ariv poll found that the hawkish opposition Likud Party, headed by former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, would triumph in any election, irrespective of whether Kadima was headed by current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the front-runner to succeed Olmert, or by current Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is believed to have Olmert's tacit support.

Kadima headed by Livni would win 20 of the 120 Knesset seats, compared to 33 for the Likud. Led by Mofaz the party would score only 16 seats to the Likud's 33.

The third major Israeli party, the Labour Party, would win between 17 to 20 seats, depending on who headed Kadima.

No margin of error was given.

A poll in the rival Yediot Ahronot daily predicted a much closer race between Netanyahu and Livni, with the Likud winning 30 seats in such a scenario and Kadima 29, well within the 4.8 per cent margin of error.

But the poll found that Kadima under Mofaz would fare far worse, winning 17 seats to the Likud's 33. In the Yediot poll, the Labour party swung between 14 to 18 seats.

A different picture however was found in a poll published in the Ha'aretz daily, where Kadima under Livni was seen as winning 26 seats, compared to 25 for the Likud. The margin of error was 4.1 per cent.

Under Mofaz, the Likud would win 29 seats and Kadima 19, the poll found. The Labour party would win between 14 to 17 seats, depending on who headed Kadima and could attract Labour voters.

All three polls found that Netanyahu is by far the most popular choice to serve as premier. Some 39.5 per cent of respondents in the Ma'riv poll said he was the most suitable candidate, compared to 24.4 per cent who preferred Livni, and 14.8 per cent who chose Mofaz.

The results in the Yediot poll were 36 to 38 per cent for Netanyahu, 30 per cent for Livni, and 15 per cent for Mofaz.

The Ha'artz poll found Netanyahu with 29 per cent of the public supporting him, compared to 22 per cent for Livni and only 8 per cent for Mofaz, the same number who thought Labour Party leader Ehud Barak was suited to the task.

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