With the Gaza war quickly fading from memory, Israelis are returning their focus to the upcoming general election scheduled for January 22, and polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all but guaranteed another opportunity to lead the nation.
A poll published on an Israeli morning show on Tuesday showed Netanyahu's Likud Party, which recently merged with Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu faction, winning 37 seats in the next Knesset, making it by far the largest party.
Next up in the poll was the resurgent Labor Party lead by popular former journalist Shelley Yachimovich with 20 seats. The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party was predicted to win 14 seats, while the increasingly popular Jewish Home faction (which replaced the National Religious Party) would take 9 mandates.
Former Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni was expected to announce the formation of a new party later in the day. The poll took that announcement into consideration, and revealed that a new party lead by Livni would win 9 seats. As for Kadima, it didn't win enough support to even show in the poll.
Also surprising was the continued downward spiral of Yair Lapid and his new centrist party Yesh Atid, which the poll showed winning only 5 seats.
Lapid is a wildly popular television personality whose moderate political views have found fans from both the right and left of the Israeli political spectrum. Initial polls showed Lapid winning at least 15 seats and becoming a "king maker" in the next government. But as the excitement wore off, it appears most Israelis returned to backing seasoned politicians.
Another variation of the survey had Livni joining Labor instead of forming her own party. Yachimovich has been pressing Livni to come on board. If that were to happen (and it was unlikely at press time), Labor would jump to 25 seats, Lapid would increase to 8 mandates, and Likud would win an additional seat.
But the bottom line is that either way, the right-wing bloc lead by Likud is expected to increase its majority to at least 70 out of the Knesset's 120 seats.
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