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Gaza war widens lead of Israel's conservative Likud Party

Polls show Benjamin Netanyahu likely to be next prime minister as Israelis vote on Feb. 10.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (shown here) is up in the polls. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is slipping. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu is doing better than before the war.

Tara Todras-whitehall/AP

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As Israeli soldiers pull back from the Gaza Strip and Hamas's rockets go silent, Israel's dormant election campaign has come back to life.

With just three weeks before voters go to the polls, the center-left government is getting high marks from the Israeli public for its pounding offensive in Gaza. But Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her ruling centrist Kadima Party may fall victim to the military's success.

Polls show that the conservative opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have opened up a bigger lead, based on a public concern that the offensive left the Hamas regime intact while failing to free an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, imprisoned in Gaza for 2-1/2 years.

"That's one of the interesting paradoxes of the war," says Mitchell Barak, a pollster who runs the survey group Keevoon. "It restored the Israeli public's confidence in the Israeli army, and in Israel's leadership's ability to defend its citizens ... but it didn't go far enough [to weaken Hamas]."


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