Just two days after he called for early elections and began the dissolution of the Knesset, polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party will be the primary beneficiaries of what is expected to be a late-January vote.
Israel's next general election was scheduled to take place toward the end of 2013. But after Netanyahu repeatedly failed to pass a new national budget, he insisted the only way forward was to gain a fresh mandate from the public.
"I have decided that the good of the State of Israel requires going to elections now, as soon as possible," in order to avoid a budget crisis in the coming year, Netanyahu told Israelis on Tuesday evening.
Netanyahu began his own campaigning immediately, noting that as the security and economies of surrounding nations had collapsed in recent years, Israel under his leadership had bolstered its defenses and improved its own financial situation.
A poll published on Thursday by Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper suggested most Israelis agree, and predicted that Netanyahu's Likud Party will increase from 27 to 29 seats in the next Knesset. A poll commissioned by the left-wing daily Ha'aretz showed similar results.
The polls indicated that the current leading opposition party, Kadima, would take a major hit in the upcoming election, while the flagging Labor Party and the newly formed Yesh Atid (There is a Future) would both make a strong showing by winning 17 seats each.
What the polls did not take into account are ongoing efforts to form a center-left "mega-party" that could pose a serious threat to Netanyahu's hopes of being Israel's next prime minister.
The effort is being led by senior members of Kadima, who hope to bring Yesh Atid and its charismatic leader, former TV personality Yair Lapid, into the fold. There are rumors that if successful, the new alliance would be headed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who only recently was acquitted of serious corruption charges in a controversial court decision.
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