Israel's Netanyahu might look to center after ballot
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to form a new governing coalition after next week's election, polls show, with the only question being whether he wants to soften its hard-line contours.
No one party has ever won a majority in parliament in a parliamentary election in Israel, and Tuesday's ballot could be followed by weeks of coalition-building negotiations.
The latest surveys predict Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, running with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, will take between 32 and 37 of the legislature's 120 seats, outstripping the nearest rival, center-left Labour, which is forecast to win between 15 to 18 seats.
According to the polls, Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, along with other right-wing and religious parties - Netanyahu's traditional coalition partners - will control some 67 seats after the election compared with only about 40 for any center-left bloc.
That would give Netanyahu a narrow but relatively strong majority in the assembly.
However, such a coalition might have an image problem abroad, containing uncompromising elements such as the Jewish Home party, which is set to take up to 15 seats and is adamantly opposed to the creation of any Palestinian state.
After his last election victory in 2009, Netanyahu struck a deal with the Labour party, a reassuring presence in the cabinet for many foreign governments because of its historic commitment to U.S.-backed peace diplomacy.
The Labour party quit the coalition in 2011 and under the new leadership of Shelly Yachimovich has vowed not to enter any Netanyahu government, preferring to stay in opposition. Continued...