Polls show that Ariel Sharon and his Kadima party are set to win
in March's elections. Likud looks to be hurting badly, suggesting a gap between the Likud activists who drove Sharon out of the party and mainstream Israeli opinion, a gap also shown in that even though Kadima is drawing majority support among those who last voted for Likud and Shinui while only a minority of former Labor voters, Labor is the preferred coalition partner. If this holds, the 2006 election will send a clear message that Israel wants to move toward peace, with the preference being for a strong leader who can get things done while making obstacles seem like temporary background noise.
The Likud people can't be happy about all this, as I suspect they've interpreted their parties frequent electoral success as a mandate for their own agenda rather than just least-of-evils status with unsatisfying Labor leaders, which is how it came across to me. At the same time, if Kadima develops a lasting political identity beyond Sharon's security policies, it could become the new Shinui and slash the potential clout of rightist religious parties in Israeli politics.