Netanyahu Set To Win, But Losing Steam

By Reuters

Published January 18, 2013.

Four days before Israel’s parliamentary election, opinion polls published on Friday showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still set to win, although his support had slipped to its lowest point in the campaign so far.

Two polls showed Israel’s right-wing and religious bloc winning a slim parliamentary majority of 63 out of 120 seats, with Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu group on course to be the largest party in the Knesset, albeit with eroding support.

The polls in Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth newspapers both showed Netanyahu’s party winning 32 seats, its poorest predicted showing so far and some 10 seats fewer than Likud and Yisrael Beitenu took in 2009 when they ran separately.

“The gap is shrinking,” leading Israeli daily Yedioth said in a headline, adding that some 15 percent of voters remained undecided. Friday is the last day opinion polls can be published in Israel before Tuesday’s election.

A relatively weak showing at the ballot box for Netanyahu would make him more susceptible to the demands of his prospective coalition partners, smaller right-wing and religious parties on which his government would have to rely to survive.

Those parties are likely to include Netanyahu’s natural partners, the fiercely pro-settler Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) and ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Netanyahu may also face more pressure from abroad, with international condemnation growing over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem - land the Palestinians want for a state, along with the Gaza Strip.

But in newspaper interviews published on Friday, Netanyahu said he would not give in to calls to halt or reverse his settlement drive if he was re-elected.



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