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Israeli PM lives in an 'aquarium', says ex-minister

Former Israeli finance minister says Netanyahu is 'out of touch' with his people, but poll still puts the premier ahead of political rivals
Effigies of Israeli politicians Yair Lapid, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni at a parade float during preparations for the Jewish festivities of Purim on 20 February, 2014 (AFP)

Former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid has lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that the premier was "out of touch" with Israelis.

"He made a mistake and the price of this mistake is that he won’t be the prime minister,” Lapid told a press conference late Wednesday.

Lapid accused Netanyahu of launching "unnecessary" snap election against the will of the Israeli public.

"Why? Because you are disconnected. You have no idea what it does to the citizens of Israel because you live in your aquarium, and for a long time now you don't know who the people are and what really troubles them," he said.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu sacked Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for their "constant criticism" of the coalition government and called early election, likely to be held in March.

A new opinion poll on Wednesday found that Netanyahu's Likud Party would likely win 22 seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament if snap elections were held.

The poll, conducted by Israel's Channel 2, also found that the right-wing "Jewish Home" party would clinch 17 seats in the assembly, while the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party would win ten seats.

The right-wing Shas Party, meanwhile, would pick up nine seats, while the Yahadut Hatorah, a coalition of ultra-orthodox parties, would win eight, according to poll results.

The poll also found that the centrist Labour Party would win 13 seats in parliament, while the "There is a Future" party would win nine.

The party to be established by former Likud Party leader Moshe Kahlon – which will focus on social issues – would also win ten seats, the poll found.

A second poll by Channel 10 reached similar conclusions.

Netanyahu formed his government in June of 1996. That government lasted until July of 1999. 

He drew up his current government in March of last year. It will continue to function until a new government is formed following snap elections.

Israel held its last general election in January of 2013. General elections must be held every four years in case there is no decision to hold early elections.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu called for holding early elections, citing difficulties leading the state with his current government.

Earlier this week, the prime minister dismissed two leading members of his cabinet – justice minister Tzipi Livni and finance minister Yair Lapid – prompting the collapse of his coalition government.

At a televised press conference, Netanyahu said he was risking snap elections "in order to improve governance."