Israel Elections: Likud holds small lead over Sa'ar's New Hope - poll

Likud stands at 25 seats, closely trailed by New Hope with 22 seats

Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Gideon Sa'ar (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Gideon Sa'ar (R)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is the leading party ahead of the March elections with 25 mandates, trailed closely by Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope at 22, according to a new poll released on Thursday morning by Panels Politics and 103FM. 
Yesh Atid, Yamina and Haredim are all tied next at 15 mandates, according to the poll, followed by the Joint List at 11 and Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu at 7 seats. 
Closing out the poll were Meretz, who rose slightly to 6 mandates, while Benny Gantz's once mighty Blue and White Party has fallen to 4 mandates and is nearing the electoral threshold.
These latest numbers follow the most recent dissolution of the Knesset, as well as Sa'ar's decision to break off from the Likud Party and establish of a new party. Various Likud members defected from the party, choosing to follow Sa'ar to the new party.
In addition, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah announced on Thursday that he would be leaving the party to form a new one, though no big names have announced yet that they would be joining him.
Notably, Higher Education Minister Ze'ev Elkin – once a confidant to Netanyahu – quit the government and the Knesset to join New Hope.
On Wednesday night, Yamina head Naftali Bennett announced that he is running for prime minister, offering another right-wing alternative to Netanyahu's reign.
On the left sideof the political map, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz announced that he will not be running for head of the party in the upcoming primaries they will be holding.