The Zionist Union Party has opened up a surprise lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, with just days to go before next week’s election.
Two major polls published this week ahead of Tuesday’s vote suggest Tzipi Livni and Issac Herzog’s centre-left party is set to take 24 seats compared to Likud’s 21.
However, the research by Israel’s Channel 2 and the Shiluv Institute indicate that right-wing and religious party’s will hold sway, attracting a total of 58 seats compared to just 54 for centre-left parties – out of a total of 120 in the Knesset.
Possible Zionist Union allies include Yesh Atid, Meretz and the Joint Arab List, while Netanyahu would be expected to embrace the likes of Jewish Home, Yisrael Beitenu and United Torah Judaism to form his next coalition.
Netanyahu was criticised by political rivals this week after his party claimed previous support for a Palestinian state, which he declared at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, was “no longer relevant”.
The prime minister has flatly denied reports that his re-election would keep Israel from ceding land to the Palestinians, but political rivals were quick to pounce, with the election now just days away.
On Monday Tzipi Livni, who led negotiations with the Palestinians last year, said the world had “lost basic trust” in Netanyahu, adding that if he could not be trusted on the two-state solution, he could not be trusted on Iran.
“He talks but he won’t evacuate, he talks but he will not agree – the world has lost basic trust in the prime minister and I say this regretfully,” she said. “When the Bar-Ilan speech cannot be believed, then the speech on Iran cannot be believed either.”
Livni’s sharp criticism comes on the back of Netanyahu’s Washington visit, where he made an enemy of the White House by speaking to the US Congress about Iran against the wishes of President Obama and his team.
Yet while Netanyahu had hoped for good publicity from the visit, newspapers carried photos of crowds in Tel Aviv, where 25,000 people gathered calling for change. “Israeli citizens are demanding a change of politics, a peace agreement,” said organiser Dror Ben Ami.
“The current government has failed on social and economic fronts and has not improved security. The country has broken down.”