Former right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, planning a political comeback after an 18-month absence, is running 20 points ahead of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, according to an opinion poll published Monday.
The survey was published in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot the day after Netanyahu announced plans to run for Prime Minister only hours after Barak formally resigned, setting the stage for a new election in 60 days.
The poll found that 52 percent of Israelis would choose former Likud leader Netanyahu against 32 percent for Barak, whose minority government has been plunged into crisis over the 10-week wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The Yediot described it as an "unprecedented low" in support for a serving prime minister.
Sixteen percent had no response, according to the poll conducted by the independent Dahaf institute.
A similar Dahaf poll published Wednesday found 50 percent support for Netanyahu against 34 for the Labor party leader who has been in power just 17 months.
The survey also found Barak would be beaten by current Likud leader Ariel Sharon by 40 percent to 34 percent, while 26 percent had no response.
While Netanyahu has announced his intention to run for Likud leadership and the premiership, he is currently barred from the race for the nation's top job under Israel's complex election law that requires candidates to be sitting MPs.
Netanyahu quit politics after his landslide election defeat to Barak in May 1999.
The survey found that 69 percent of Israelis considered Barak's resignation a deliberate maneuver to prevent Netanyahu from running while 22 percent said it was because of the emergency situation.
The poll was carried out among 508 people and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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