Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he intends to call an election in early 2012, the latest polls indicate that his Likud Party would comfortably remain the largest party in the Knesset if elections were held today.
A poll commissioned by Maariv reveals that Likud would win 29 Knesset seats, with the Labour Party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party on 17 seats apiece, making them Likud’s closest rivals. Yisrael Beiteinu in the poll would win 13 seats with Shas close behind on 10 seats. Kadima, currently the second largest party in the Knesset with 28 seats, polls just six seats. The Maariv poll also asked how a party including former-prime minister Ehud Olmert and former-foreign minister Tzipi Livni would impact the race. The results found that a party led by the two former Kadima leaders would win 10 seats, largely at the expense of Kadima and Yesh Atid.
Another poll published in Haaretz produced similar figures, although it placed Yesh Atid behind Yisrael Beiteinu. The survey found that although Tzipi Livni is the most popular rival to Netanyahu, her approval rating of 28 per cent is half of that of Netanyahu who scored 56 per cent.
Meanwhile, speculation continues in Israel that Olmert and Livni are both set to enter the race. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon is thought to be spearheading an effort to unite the centre-left camp, with Ramon telling the Jerusalem Post that it would be led by “Someone who has the ability to beat Netanyahu.” It is thought that Ramon is attempting to form a faction led by Olmert that would also including Livni, Kadima MKs and Yesh Atid. Olmert has reportedly told confidants that he will make a decision on whether to run or not in the coming week or two, while Livni is expected to decide on her candidacy when she returns from a lecture tour in the United States in the middle of next week.