Zionist Union opens lead on Netanyahu's Likud
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Workers hang a giant campaign poster of Israeli Labour Party leader and co-leader of the Zionist Union list for the upcoming general election, Isaac Herzog on March 11, 2015 in Jerusalem. AFP Photo.Six days before Israel votes in a snap general election, the centre-left Zionist Union opened a lead of several points over the ruling rightwing Likud party, a poll found on March 11.
Following weeks in which the two parties were more or less neck-and-neck, several polls published this week showed the Zionist Union, a list headed by opposition leader Isaac Herzog, stealing a march on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.
According to a survey by Israel's army radio, Herzog's list was seen taking 24 seats to Likud's 21, indicating an erosion in support for Netanyahu's faction.
Both parties had been hovering around 23 or 24 seats for the past few months. There are 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
The poll found that the centre left and potential allies would take 54 seats compared with 58 for the rightwing and religious parties.
The centre-right Kulanu faction, which has not said whether it would back Netanyahu or Herzog and is therefore expected to play the role of kingmaker, is seen taking eight seats.
The poll, which was conducted by the Shiluv Institute, interviewed 600 people but did not give a margin of error.
A similar poll by Channel 2 television released late on Tuesday gave the Zionist Union 25 seats to 21 for Likud, with the centre left and allies taking 55 seats to 57 for the right. It too forecast eight seats for Kulanu.
Potential allies for the Zionist Union include the Joint Arab List, the centrist Yesh Atid and the left-wing Meretz.
Last week, Netanyahu, who has based his campaign on security issues, gave a controversial address to the US Congress on the threat that would be posed by a nuclear Iran in a move he had hoped would boost his support ahead of the vote.
Under Israel's electoral system, the task of forming the next government does not automatically fall to the leader of the largest party or list -- rather to the politician who has the best chance of putting together a coalition government.
And in this respect, Netanyahu has a clear advantage over Herzog in that he will find it much easier to piece together a majority.
Among his natural allies are the far-right Jewish Home, the hardline Yisrael Beitenu, ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right religious Yahad faction.
Asked by public radio whether he would back Netanyahu or Herzog for premier, Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister, refused to be drawn.