Opinion polls in Israel predict easy win for Netanyahu



Jerusalem: Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing religious bloc will have an easy victory in the snap polls to be held early next year, opinion polls published on Thursday.

According to a poll by Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Netanyahu's coalition is set to increase its share in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament) garnering 68 seats compared to a centrist-left coalition which will manage only 52.

The right-wing bloc, backed by five members of the centrist Atzmaut party, has 66 seats in the current Knesset.

Netanyahu's popularity is also on the ascent with Dialog poll for Ha'aretz showing that 57-62 per cent of respondents found him the best suited to lead the country (depending on who he is up against).

Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who failed to win her Kadima party primaries, scored 28 per cent while former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who resigned following a series of charges of graft but has managed to get reprieve from the courts, scored 24 per cent.

Labour Party chair Shelly Yachimovich scored 17 per cent, current Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz 16 per cent, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak of Atzmaut party 15 per cent, even though the polls show that his party may not be able to open score in the next Knesset, the poll results said.

Another poll published in Ma'ariv newspaper also put Netanyahu and his right-wing allies far ahead of the opposition, saying he would hold on to the 66 seats he currently commands.

However, Netanyahu's rising popularity hasn't impacted much on the seat share of his party with both the opinion polls predicting 29 seats for the ruling Likud party, compared to existing 27.

Palestinian media reacted with pessimism over the prospect of breaking the deadlock on peace talks with most of the analysts predicting "nothing will change" after Israeli polls.

Nasser al-Laham, chief editor of Palestinian Ma'an news agency, in an editorial said that " no real change is expected".

He advised his readers not to set their hopes up as the Israeli public has been "hypnotised" and estimated that Netanyahu will return to the Prime Minister's seat.

PTI