JERUSALEM — A pair of polls show that the Benjamin Netyanyahu's new alliance with his hard-line foreign minister should keep the prime minister's party in power after the Jan. 22 election.
Resuming stalled U.S.- and European-sponsored peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to be a high priority, however, given the disdain for his authority voiced by Avigdor Lieberman, a settler in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Channel 2 TV's poll Sunday showed the new bloc of Netanyahu's Likud and Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu would maintain the 42 seats they currently hold in the 120-seat parliament. Netanyahu had hoped the merger would boost their numbers.
The poll surveyed 500 people and had a margin of error of four percentage points. It said the Labor Party would finish second with 23 seats.
A separate poll on Channel 10 showed the new hard-line bloc dropping seven seats from its current total. The TV channel did not provide details of how the poll was conducted.
"In Israel, the prime minister needs a big, cohesive force behind him," Netanyahu said at a news conference, citing a need to tackle security concerns like Iran's nuclear program as well as economic and social problems in Israel.
Running with Lieberman, Netanyahu predicted, would yield "a clear mandate that will allow me to focus on the main issues, rather than trifles."
Battered by partisan sniping during his first term as premier in the late 1990s, when Lieberman served as his chief of staff, Netanyahu has since sought broad-based and ideologically binding political alliances.
Lieberman has also called for an overhaul to the fractious political system, where a low threshold of minimum votes allows for a multitude of small special-interest parties in parliament.
"Real reform of governance begins, effectively, today," the Moldovan-born foreign minister said alongside Netanyahu.
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