Israel: desperately seeking anti-Netanyahu candidate

Bibi favorite to win early 2013 elections, left fragmented

15 October, 15:42

(ANSAmed) - ROME - The latest Israeli public opinion polls show Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is likely to consolidate power in early elections likely to be held in late January or early February next year. With his coalition at loggerheads over a new budget, Netanyahu on Tuesday October 9 called for government to be dissolved in order to prepare for early elections. And while 45% of Israelis surveyed declared themselves satisfied with his leadership and an equal percentage declared themselves against him, his nationalist right-wing Likud party looks set to increase its Knesset (parliament) seats, with the right overall winning 68 out of 120 seats, against the 63 they presently occupy. While the fragmented leftist opposition appears to present no real threat, Netanyahu's challenge in what will be his third term in office will be to contain his own far-right allies.

Among them, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the lay nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Is Our Home) party, various ultra-orthodox Jewish formations, and the combative Jewish colonist movement in the Occupied Territories.

Breakaway Likud faction Kadima, the centrist party led by Ariel Sharon that called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, is losing consensus, according to recent opinion polls. Its current chairman, Lt. General Shaul Mofaz, lacks charisma and is struggling to position himself as a credible opposition reference point. Mofaz's competition could be former anchorman Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, which he founded in 2012. Yesh Atid advocates the draft for all Israelis, maintaining the Jewish settlements, and a two-state solution to end the Palestinian conflict.

With the Labor Party in free-fall after Ehud Barak drove it into the ground then quit in 2011, political analysts say Netanyahu's sole credible threat is former premier, Ehud Olmert.

Who, pending the results of two bribery indictments, is meditating a return to the head of Kadima. (ANSAmed).

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