Poll: Israeli PM's party loses votes to ultra-right party

2012-12-25 13:15:10 GMT2012-12-25 21:15:10(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- A poll published Tuesday showed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party is still ahead at the votes' count but losing seats to the ultra-right Habayit Hayeudi Party.

The poll, conducted by the Dialog Group for the Ha'aretz daily, showed that Netanyahu's Likud party could win 35 seats in the next parliament, down from 39 in the last survey.

The poll of 491 people had an error margin of 4.3 percentage points.

The poll mainly showed a continuing surge on behalf of the Habayit Hayeudi (the "Jewish Home") leader, Naftali Bennet, who stirred a storm within the Israeli public last week, when he said he would resist the evacuation of settlements as a reservist officer if ordered to do so.

According to Tuesday's poll, Bennet's party was getting stronger from 13 seats, up from the last poll's predicted 11 seats, making it the third largest party in the next parliament. The center-left Labor Party is second in line with 17 seats.

In a series of weekend interviews to the major TV news channels, Netanyahu tore at Bennet's statement, marking him as his biggest rival in the upcoming elections.

Netanyahu said that a person who encouraged disobedience in the army would not be a member of his future cabinet.

Overall, the Dialog Group predicts so far 67 seats to the right- wing bloc, including the ultra-orthodox parties, up against 53 seats by the center-left parties, 11 of which go to the three Arab parties.

Israeli analysts said Netanyahu's recent surge of announcements on expansion of East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements are part of an election propaganda aimed to widen his support among far- right wing voters and get back votes he lost to Bennet's party.

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