An overwhelming 48 percent of Israelis support the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a poll published yesterday ahead of an announcement on early general elections.
Netanyahu is expected to announce next week that he will be moving the vote up to Sept. 4 this year from October next year.
According to the poll published in Haaretz daily, Netanyahu is set to win easy re-election, with the survey showing he commands more support than his next three rivals put together.
The poll found his closest rival, Shelly Yachimovich of the Labour party, has 15 percent support, and Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman — head of the ultra-nationalist Israeli Beitenu party — commands 9 percent.
Just 6 percent of respondents backed Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Israel’s largest opposition party in parliament, Kadima.
Netanyahu, who is observing the traditional mourning period after the death of his father, is expected to make an announcement moving forward the election on Sunday at a meeting of his Likud party.
Various dates for an early vote had been floated in the media, including as early as August or in October, but on Wednesday, Netanyahu’s coalition chairman said a motion had been tabled calling for the election to be held on Sept. 4.
“The consensus of most of the coalition parties and part of the opposition is that the election will take place on September 4,” Zeev Elkin told Israeli public radio. “That is the agreed date ... A final decision will be taken on Sunday.”
Speculation about an early vote has been rife for months, with commentators saying Netanyahu was likely to try to capitalize on his popularity to strengthen himself before US polls and tough budget cuts to be implemented later this year.
Another key reason for bringing the vote forward is a dispute over the issue of drafting Orthodox Jews into the army that has threatened the stability of Netanyahu’s coalition.
The so-called Tal Law, which allowed Orthodox Jews to defer their service in the Israeli military, is strongly opposed by Lieberman’s staunchly secular party.
Netanyahu has pledged to replace the law, which expires this year, with a more “egalitarian” rule, but is caught between Yisrael Beitenu and the Orthodox factions in his coalition, who adamantly oppose military service.
Polls have consistently showed that his Likud party stands to gain about 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset in the next elections, up from its current 27.
A poll published in the Jerusalem Post daily yesterday said Likud could win 31 seats, with Labour trailing behind with 17, and Israel Beitenu taking 13.
The newly formed Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) party could take 12 seats, according to the poll, with Kadima likely to suffer crushing losses, reducing its standing from 28 seats to just 10.