The surveys in the mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv newspapers published on Friday found that Sharon's new centrist Kadima party would win some 33 seats in the 120-member parliament and the centrist Labour Party would win around 28 seats.

 

But the right-wing Likud party under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu would be stripped down to its smallest size ever, winning only 13 parliamentary seats, according to both polls.

 

The results indicate that Sharon could potentially set up a stable coalition government with the Labour Party, which has been rejuvenated under the leadership of former trade union leader Amir Peretz.

 

Sharon, in a gamble that could reshape Israeli politics for years to come, quit Likud on Monday, saying he could not push for peace with the Palestinians while "wasting time" battling far-right rivals in the party he co-founded in 1973.