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Netanyahu set to win Israel election but rightists gain: polls

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) is seen during the launch of his Likud Beiteinu party campaign ahead of the upcoming January
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) is seen during the launch of his Likud Beiteinu party campaign ahead of the upcoming January

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is set to win a parliamentary election on January 22 although the popularity of a far-right party opposed to Palestinian statehood is growing, polls showed on Friday.

Two out of three surveys showed the right-wing Likud losing voters to political newcomer Naftali Bennett's religious party Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home)and to a fractured center-left bloc.

All still predicted a strong right-wing coalition emerging in the 120-seat parliament, which would assure Netanyahu another term.

The daily Yedioth Ahronoth published a poll with Likud winning 33 seats, four less than a month ago. A poll in the Jerusalem Post showed Likud fell to 34, down from 39 just two weeks ago. A survey by Maariv said Likud held ground at 37.

Without a majority in parliament, Likud would have to join forces with other parties to form a government. Netanyahu could choose Bennett and ultra-Orthodox religious parties or team up with members of the center-left bloc.

The left-leaning Labor party remained in second place in all the polls, winning 17 or 18 seats.

Bennett's party platform rejects a two-state solution with the Palestinians and is staunchly in favor of settlement building in the occupied West Bank - an issue which has stalled peace talks.

All the polls show him on an upward trend, winning between 12 and 14 seats.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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