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Prison raid gives Israel's Olmert a boost

Polls show Tuesday's raid has increased support for Israel's acting PM ahead of national elections.

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Israel's controversial raid Tuesday on a Palestinian prison in the West Bank city of Jericho is shaping up as a boost in public support for Israel's interim prime minister, Ehud Olmert, according to the latest polls.

That should be welcome news Mr. Olmert, who has seen his support dwindling ahead of national elections due in less than two weeks.

But the raid has had the opposite effect on support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, further undermining his credibility among Palestinians, and sparking concern among analysts that this could lead to a decrease in cooperation with Israel. "If Abu Mazen [Abbas] continues to have some control, the security cooperation could continue," says Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, expressing concerns about the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations without Abbas at the helm.

Several polls done the day after the jail raid, in which six Palestinian militants gave themselves up after a violent, 10-hour siege, indicated that Olmert's profile as a security hawk has been bolstered by the events.

Olmert inherited the centrist Kadima party from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been comatose since early January. Recent surveys had indicated that Olmert's popularity ratings were sliding such that he might not win more than 40 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The independent Geocartography Institute showed that Kadima would win between 42 and 43 seats, an increase from 38 the week before.

Other polls showed Kadima maintaining a stable lead, still far ahead of any rivals, particularly the party that would present the greatest challenge: Likud - formerly the political home of both Olmert and Sharon - under the helm of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel denies political motive for the raid
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