A poll shows Israel’s opposition Zionist Union edging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud a week ahead of the March 17 election.
Tuesday’s Panel Politics poll showed the center-left camp led by Isaac Herzog earning 24 out of parliament’s 120 seats. Likud trailed slightly with 21 projected seats. But with the vote splintered among 12 potential parties, Netanyahu may still be more likely to form a coalition government because of his hard-line backers in parliament.
The poll also found a rise in support for the nonaligned centrist Yesh Atid and Kulanu parties. Without a clear winner, Israel’s largely ceremonial president may also ask the two biggest parties to join forces after the vote.
The poll surveyed more than 1,000 Israelis and had a margin of error of three percentage points.
Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks Tuesday there was a “huge, worldwide effort” to ensure he loses next week’s election.
Army Radio, which aired what it said were comments he made Monday to activists of his right-wing Likud party, interpreted them as referring to foreign funding for advocacy groups campaigning for a change of government in Israel.
Political parties in Israel are banned from accepting money directly from overseas donors during an election campaign. But such funding is allowed under Israeli law for nonprofit organizations espousing political viewpoints, and US consultants have advised Israeli candidates for years.
“It is a very tight race. Nothing is guaranteed because there is a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud government,” said Netanyahu, who received rousing applause in the US Congresslast week during a speech against a potential nuclear deal with Iran sought by the administration of President Barack Obama.
The visit came at the invitation of the Republican leadership of Congress, angering the White House and Democratic legislators.
Critics accused Netanyahu of intervening in US politics, and the Republicans of trying to boost his re-election prospects.
As election day approaches, “Netanyahu is feeling the pressure ... he is shooting in all directions,” Herzog told Israel Radio.
The Palestinian Authority Tuesday called for the arrest of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for having said Sunday that disloyal 1948 Palestinians, residents in Israel, should be beheaded.
A statement from the PA’s Foreign Ministry said that Lieberman constituted a threat to humanity, Israeli media reported.
Separately, it was announced that Israel’s most prestigious prize for literature will not be awarded for 2015 after several judges resigned amid allegations that Netanyahu meddled in the selection process.
Israeli media reported Tuesday that the judges for Israel Prizeresigned in protest after a recent posting on Netanyahu’s Facebook page that claimed the committee is controlled by judges with “extremist views” on the far left.
Netanyahu also said the panel needs to reflect the wider public.
Netanyahu’s remarks may have been an attempt to appeal to far-right voters ahead of the elections.
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