Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded Thursday that the centre-left opposition could win next week`s general election and appealed to voters not to take the chance with national security.
"Our security is at great risk because there is a real danger that we could lose this election," he told the Jerusalem Post, as polls continued to show the Zionist Union, led by Labour leader Isaac Herzog and former justice minister Tzipi Livni holding a three-point lead over his rightwing Likud.
"If the gap between the Likud and Labour continues to grow, a week from now Herzog and Livni will become the prime ministers of Israel in rotation, with the backing of the Arab parties," he said.
"That will cause such a monumental shift in policy that it is a danger, and anyone who wants to stop it has to vote Likud to narrow the gap."
The Zionist Union fuses Herzog`s Labour with the centrist HaTnuah headed by Livni, formerly Israel`s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians.
Should they form the next government they have agreed on a two-year rotation for the premiership, with Herzog taking the first tenure.
"You will get prime ministers who completely prostrate themselves to any pressure," Netanyahu said.
"Not only can`t they stand up to pressure, they don`t want to stand up to the pressure. They just want to yield and give in."
The Post quoted Livni as hitting back, accusing Netanyahu of scaremongering.
"The role of a leader is not to scare his people, but to make decisions and deal with threats," she told students at Haifa University.
An opinion poll published in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper on Thursday predicted that the Zionist Union would win 24 of the 120 seats in parliament, to 21 for Likud.
The Joint List, a newly formed alliance of Israel`s main Arab parties, was seen coming third with 13 seats in the Dialog poll, which quizzed 714 respondents and had a margin of error of three percentage points.
Under Israel`s electoral system, the government is formed not by the single largest party, but by whomever can build a coalition commanding a parliamentary majority.