Five days after igniting a media firestorm by saying he would go to jail rather than follow an IDF order to evacuate settlers, Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home party still appear to be gaining in the polls, at the expense of right-wing rivals.
According to a Haaretz poll released on Tuesday, if the elections were to be held today, Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home party would receive 13 seats in the next government, as opposed to 35 seats for Likud-Beytenu.
Previous polls had shown the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list getting some 36-37 seats and Jewish Home getting 11-12.
On Thursday, Bennett, a former member of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and still a reserve soldier, told interviewer Nissim Mishal that he would have trouble carrying out an order to evacuate a Jewish settlement.
“If I am ever given an order to evacuate a Jew from his home… personally, my conscience won’t allow me to do it; I’ll ask my commander to grant me an exemption, [but] I won’t call for [mass] insubordination,” Bennett said during a heated conversation on Channel 2.
However, if anything that bad press has helped Bennett, who subsequently retracted his remarks.
The overall picture still shows a strong right-wing coalition with 67 seats and a center-left opposition of 53 seats.
If Jewish Home does in fact receive 13 seats, it may be the joint third-largest party in the next government, behind Likud-Beytenu and the Labor Party, which was projected in the Haaretz poll to receive 17 seats.
The poll, conducted by the Dialog Institute under the supervision of Camil Fuchs, also predicted that the Sephardi religious Shas party would receive 13 seats, while Tzipi Livni’s new centrist Hatnua party would receive 10. Kadima, currently the largest party in the Knesset with 29 seats, would plummet to only two seats according to the poll, barely crossing the threshold needed enter the Knesset at all.
Am Shalem, headed by Shas defector Haim Amsallem, is shown not making it into the Knesset, along with extreme right-wing faction Otzma Leyisrael.
Bennett’s skyrocketing electoral popularity — arguably fueled by his energy and charisma, his appeal to religious right-wingers, and a lack of faith in Netanyahu among pro-settlement Israelis — is widely perceived as a threat to Netanyahu and his Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list. The relationship between the two men is further complicated by the fact that Bennett was Netanyahu’s chief of staff between 2006 and 2008 and stepped down after the two reportedly had a falling out.