New polls conducted a day after Avi Gabbay won the Labor Party primaries show the Labor-led Zionist Union faction bounding back into second place, behind Likud but ahead of centrist Yesh Atid.
On Tuesday, Gabbay celebrated his surprise victory as head of the largest opposition party by kicking off what he called a campaign to unseat Netanyahu and win 30 Knesset seats.
While neither of the two polls conudcted by Israel’s main news channels showed Zionist Union — which is made up of Labor at Hatnua — reaching that high a number, it showed a significant leap from recent polls that showed the party crashing as low as 12 seats.
According to the Channel 2 poll, if elections were to be held today, Likud would win 25 seats, Zionist Union 20, Yesh Atid 18, Jewish Home 13, the Arab Joint List 13, Kulanu 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Shas 5, and Meretz 5.
A Channel 10 poll had Zionist Union doing even better. According to the station’s poll, Likud would win 29 seats, just one less than its current 30-seat showing. Zionist Union would win 24, matching its current showing. Yesh Atid would win 16, Jewish Home 14, the Arab Joint List 8, Yisrael Beytenu 7, Kulanu 6, United Torah Judaism 6, Shas 5 and Meretz 5.
Gabbay, a former minister for Kulanu who does not serve as an MK, beat out former party leader Amir Peretz in a runoff election, Labor officials announced Monday night. Analysts have compared Gabbay to France’s Emmanuel Macron, ascribing him the ability to inject youthful energy into the party and bring it out of the political wilderness after nearly two decades out of power.
While the polls showed Labor gaining points with Gabbay at the helm, most still see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the preferred candidate to lead Israel, the surveys showed.
A Channel 10 poll asking whether Netanyahu or Gabbay is more fitting to be prime minister found 51 percent backing the incumbent and just 25% putting their weight behind the political neophyte. The remaining 24% did not know.
When other party leaders were factored into the question, Netanyahu was supported by 37%, Gabbay got 14%, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid 12%, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett 8% and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman 7% and 22% of respondents said they don’t know.
A similar poll for Channel 1 had Gabbay in third place: Netanyahu was preferred by 30% of those surveyed, while Lapid was supported by 16% and Gabbay 13%. Bennett brought up the rear with 7%, but the winner was “none of the above” with 33% support.
Once the country’s de-facto hegemonic power, Labor has failed to lead the government since Ehud Barak was ousted from power in 2001. Netanyahu has led the country since 2009, surviving three elections. New elections are currently scheduled for 2019.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.