Seemingly Unscathed, Netanyahu’s Party Emerges as Front-runner in Early Israeli Election Polls

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would emerge as the largest party in Israel in the next Knesset if elections were held now, two polls published on Monday said.

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The polls came just as Netanyahu signaled publically he was not interested in early elections, despite claims to the contrary by political sources that said the prime minister may disband the Knesset as soon as Wednesday with the hopes of holding an early election by June.

According to a poll by the Israel Television News Company, Netanyahu’s Likud party would get 30 while the centrist Yesh Atid – currently in opposition – would be second with 21 seats, and the center-left Zionist Union third with 13 seats.

A Channel 10 poll released Monday also had Likud on top with 29 seats, but it gave Yesh Atid 24, and had the Joint Arab List in third place with 13.

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>> To Bibi or not to Bibi: Does Netanyahu want early elections? | Analysis <<

New legislation regarding enlisting Israel’s ultra-Orthodox into the army – long a hot button political issue – coupled with criminal investigations against Netanyahu have spun his ruling coalition into crisis.

Despite the fact that Netanyahu called on his waring coalition partners to try to find a solution to the political crisis brewing over the legislation, the leaders of parties who met with him Monday got the distinct impression he is determined to head to elections.

>> Netanyahu’s coalition partners are convinced he’s still set on elections | Analysis >>

According to the News Company poll, the Joint List would get 12 seats and Habayit Hayehudi 11, while Meretz would get seven seats, United Torah Judaism seven, and the centrist Kulanu seven.

Meanwhile, the poll said that a new party headed by Orli Levi-Abekasis’ would get five seats while her former party, Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman would only win four, as would Shas. Both parties are partners in Netanyahu’s coalition and the low polling results may disincentive them from aiding Netanyahu in calling a new election.

According to Channel 10, Zionist Union would 11 seats, as would Habayit Hayehudi, while Meretz gets nine, Kulanu six, United Torah Judaism six, Yisrael Beiteinu six and Shas gets five, a slightly better showing for the two.

On Monday Netanyahu addressed the possibility of early elections in his Knesset speech. “If there are elections we will win,” he said. “But we aren’t there yet. The hour is late, but it’s not too late. We have to make a supreme effort to preserve the government in its current composition for a while.”

Speaking in response to a demand signed by 40 MKs that he address the plenum, Netanyahu added, “The government cannot function on [a majority of] one vote.” Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who spoke after the premier, said Likud ministers had approached Zionist Union with a request to hold elections held in June.