World Bulletin / News Desk
Israel's governing Likud Party decided to merge with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's far right Israel Beiteinu faction.
The union proposed by Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won approval, though some moderates in Likud are opposed to it.
A poll released ahead of the vote on Monday evening shows a merged Likud-Israel Beiteinu party could be far ahead of rivals in Jan. 22 elections.
The TNS/Teleseker poll of 500 people, conducted for the Maariv newspaper and published on Monday, gave the merged party 43 of parliament's 120 seats. Ultra-Orthodox parties that traditionally align with Likud would win 24, potentially handing Netanyahu a comfortable hard-line majority of 67 seats.
The survey had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
"I've got news for you, I intend to lead Israel for many years to come," Netanyahu said to loud applause in a packed Tel Aviv auditorium.
The only challenger seen as possibly threatening Netanyahu's lead was ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert, former leader of the centrist Kadima party, who has not yet said whether he will run since his acquittal on most of the corruption charges that forced his 2008 resignation.
A poll published on Monday in the Maariv newspaper showed Olmert winning just 10 parliament seats to 42 for Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu bloc. The gap was narrower when Olmert's support was combined with that of other centrists such as former TV news anchor Yair Lapid, running as head of a separate party.
Some pundits see a possible comeback by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni as a potential wild card in the race. Livni quit parliament in March after losing a party leadership race in Kadima to former general Shaul Mofaz.
Livni and other centrists have been holding talks with Labour party leader Shelly Yachimovitch on the possibility of forging a broader ticket against Netanyahu.
But most polls predict right-wing and religious parties more closely allied with Netanyahu will win a solid majority in the election.Last Mod: 30 Ekim 2012, 12:18