Even when his approval rating fell from more than 50 percent to 29 percent during the summer, in part due to public dissatisfaction with the economy, he still commanded nearly double the support of the next closest contender, Shelly Yacimovich of the left-wing Labor party.
Ms. Yacimovich, the steely daughter of Holocaust survivors from Poland who made her name in journalism, has been praised for her domestic policies since entering Israel’s rough-and-tumble political arena.
But she has no international experience – a serious deficiency in a country where security issues tend to trump all at the polls, especially amid the Iran nuclear threat. One article in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper asked mockingly, “Who knows how to play strategic poker against [Iran’s] ayatollahs? Shelly Yacimovich?"
The hunky former TV anchor Yair Lapid has likewise captured some attention after entering politics earlier this year with an Obama-esque message of hope for improving Israeli society, but he doesn’t even bother to talk about foreign policy.
The current opposition leader, Shaul Mofaz of the centrist Kadima party, has strong security credentials as a former defense minister and chief of staff for Israel’s military. But he lost credibility for briefly joining Netanyahu’s governing coalition and then leaving in less than three months.