Polls show close election race in Israel

Sunday, November 02, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

Three election polls conducted in Israel late last week suggested that it will be a photo finish when Israelis go to the polls in February.

One poll showed Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party coming out on top with 25-26 Knessets, with Tzipi Livni's Kadima Party following close behind with 22-23 mandates.

The two other polls showed Likud and Kadima battling to a draw with 27 seats apiece in one poll and 31 for each party in the other poll.

All three polls showed Ehud Barak's Labor Party losing a significant number of seats from its current 19 mandates. One poll even suggested Labor could become just the fourth largest Knesset faction behind Likud, Kadima and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.

In all three polls, the right-wing and right-leaning parties won a combined majority of at least 61 out of 120 Knesset seats.

One survey asked respondents who they believed was most appropriate to serve as prime minister. A 38 percent plurality chose Netanyahu, while 30 percent picked Livni. Only 9 percent said they want Barak as prime minister.

In other election news, Israeli media on Sunday reported that Benny Begin, some of late prime minister Menachem Begin, is returning to the Likud Party after a nine year self-imposed exile from politics.

Begin was a rising star in the Likud, but resigned in protest in 1997 when party leader and then prime minister Netanyahu surrendered most of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority.

Begin then led the right-wing alliance National Union Party in the 1999 national election, but quit politics all together after failing to win more than four Knesset seats.

Benny Begin is widely regarded, by allies and opponents alike, as one of Israel's most honest and principled politicians.

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