Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo: Reuters)
An Israeli poll published on Friday, amid fresh talk of possible early elections, showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party winning twice as much support as any rival.
But the Smith Research survey carried by Jerusalem Post newspaper said Likud would still fall far short of a parliamentary majority and once again be forced into a coalition.
The poll of 500 Jewish and Arab Israelis said that if Netanyahu brought forward a general election scheduled for October 2013, Likud would take 31 seats in the 120-seat legislature.
The tally would be well ahead of Labour and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu -- a current coalition partner -- which would have 15 each.
The centrist opposition Kadima, currently the largest party by a hair, with 28 seats to Likud's 27 would shrink to 13 in early elections,it said.
Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that he does not intend to bring forward the election date, but speculation is rife and has been rising ahead of parliament's return next week from its spring break.
"I believe that Israel is in an election year and that the Knesset?s summer session, which will open on Monday, will be the last session of the 18th Knesset," speaker Reuven Rivlin told the top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.
It quoted Rivlin as saying Netanyahu needed to increase his parliamentary numbers ahead of the 2013 budget and to strengthen his hand by going to the polls before the US presidential election in November.
Commentators believe that a new term for President Barack Obama could spell fresh US pressure on Israel over its moribund peace process with the Palestinians.
Friday's poll, with a 4.5-percentage margin of error, predicted that in the event of early elections the right-centre bloc of parties in the Knesset -- Likud and its potential coalition partners -- could muster the support of 67 lawmakers.