TEL AVIV (Jul. 12)
Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin appears to be the most popular politician in Israel.
According to the latest poll, a majority of Israelis would elect him prime minister over Yitzhak Shamir or Ariel Sharon of Likud, or his colleague Shimon Peres, whom he is challenging for leadership of the Labor Party.
But the results do not mean Labor would beat Likud if elections were held now. The poll was based on the premise of direct election of the prime minister, one of the electoral reforms being urged by increasing numbers of Israelis.
According to the poll, Rabin would have an easy win over Shamir, the incumbent prime minister, and an even easier one over Sharon, the minister of construction and housing known for his hard-line policies.
In a direct confrontation with Shamir, Rabin would win 50 percent of the votes to 33 percent for the Likud leader. Among the respondents, 17 percent had no opinion.
The poll, by the Jerusalem-based Hanoch Smith Research Institute, was conducted June 24 to July 3 among a representative sample of 1,200 Israelis.
A Rabin-Sharon contest would give the Laborite a 54 percent to 28 percent edge, with 18 percent offering no opinion.
Rabin is campaigning to unseat Peres as Labor Party chairman. The poll results seemed to bear out his argument that he would be a far more formidable candidate than Peres for the office of prime minister.
The poll showed that Shamir would beat Peres by a 44 percent to 29 percent margin, with no opinion from 27 percent.
A Sharon-Peres contest would be much closer, but Sharon would win by 37 percent to 34 percent. Twenty-nine percent had no opinion on that race.