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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Easy win expected for Netanyahu in first poll since Israeli election announcement 

The premier remains popular despite corruption allegations against him

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an early election. Reuters 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an early election. Reuters 

A newly released public opinion poll suggests Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be re-elected by a significant margin after he called yesterday for early elections next April.

The Panels Politics Survey predicted that if he maintains his current popularity, Mr Netanyahu's ruling Likud party would secure 30 seats in the 120 seat parliament and a majority for his right-wing, nationalist bloc.

Benny Gantz, former chief of the Israeli military, came second with a projected 13 seats in the poll, but he has not yet declared whether he will run. The established left and centre parties lagged far behind.

Over 500 Israelis were surveyed and the results had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

Mr Netanyahu's ruling coalition collapsed on Monday after it announced it was dissolving parliament and calling for early elections in April.

A victory for the premier in April would assure him a place in history as Israel’s longest-serving leader.

The premier will go to the polls facing the possibility of being charged with bribery and corruption in three different cases. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is yet to decide whether to press charges against Mr Netanyahu.

"Avichai Mandelblit needs to tell us before the elections if there is an indictment or not," Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, one of Mr Netanyahu's primary challengers, told the YNet news site. "People need to know what they are voting for."

The decision is expected to be announced in the coming months, the Attorney General's office said, adding that it would not be impacted by any political developments.

Mr Netanyahu has denied the allegations, labeling them as a "media-orchestrated witch hunt" aimed at removing him from power.

One allegation holds that Mr Netanyahu accepted valuable gifts from billionaire friends. Another revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable press coverage.

Mr Netanyahu remains popular among Israelis despite the allegations against him.

However, after Monday's announcement, Mr Netanyahu faced fresh criticism over his argument in November that it would be irresponsible to go to elections because the country was facing a sensitive security situation.

It was an apparent reference to an upcoming military operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon that was announced earlier this month.

Asked on Monday why now was a better time, Mr Netanyahu said the operation was nearly complete.

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Updated: December 25, 2018 06:29 PM

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