A new poll says that if Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party merges with the center-right Kulanu party, together the two would win 29 Knesset seats, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party would take only 25 in the 120-seat Knesset.
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In the case that the two parties do not run together, Netanyahu's Likud would finish first.
Kulanu is currently a key partner in Netanyahu's government. Meanwhile Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid, is part of the opposition. The latter played a key role in Netanyahu's previous government, but has since become one of its fiercest critics. There is no indication the two parties are planning a merger and Moshe Kahlon, the head of Kulanu and current finance minister, said Saturday that his party plans to run independently in the next election.
The poll, conducted by Israel's Meet the Press, found that should the two run together as a center-right party, the main opposition Zionist Union would win only 17 seats. The right wing Bayit Hayehudi would be tied at 12 seats with the Joint Arab List – Israel's sole Arab party. Yisrael Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism would win seven, respectively, while Shas would take six and the left-wing Meretz five.
In the case that the two parties do not run together, the Likud would still get 25 seats (down from its current 30), but no other party would win more. Yesh Atid would come in second with 24 (up from 11), the Zionist Union third with 16 (down from 24).
Lapid founded Yesh Atid in 2012; the following year it reached the Knesset with 19 MKs, and Lapid, a former TV anchorman, became finance minister until December 2014 under Netanyahu.
A poll by Israel's Maariv daily found Friday that Yesh Atid would be the largest force in the Knesset with 27 seats if voting were held today.
According to the poll by the Panels Politics research firm, Netanyahus Likud would drop to 22 seats, while Zionist Union would tumble to 14 from 24.
According to the poll, many Likud voters would switch to the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, which would rise to 13 seats from eight. The Joint List of Arab parties would ease two seats to 11, while an ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, would rise to eight seats from six.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermans Yisrael Beiteinu would fall one seat to five, while a second ultra-Orthodox party, Shas, would plunge to four seats from seven.