Likud and Zionist Union remained neck and neck in several polls published Friday, with the two leading parties taking roughly 20 percent of the vote apiece in the March 17 elections, and Likud support not markedly harmed by allegations of spending abuse by the Netanyahus detailed in a State Comptroller’s report.
As things stand in the surveys, Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would appear to have a better prospect than Zionist Camp’s Isaac Herzog of forming a coalition, but the nature of the next government will hinge on recommendations made to President Reuven Rivlin by senior figures from all parties once the votes are counted. Rivlin will entrust the task of building a coalition with the candidate he assesses has the better chance of doing so.
An Israel Radio poll and a Channel 1 survey gave the parties 24 seats each. A survey conducted for the Walla news site gave Likud a one seat advantage over Zionist Union, which it projected would win 23 seats, but the ruling party marked a two seat decline in the past two weeks of polling. Meanwhile a Maariv poll had the Zionist Union leading Likud 24 to 22.
All four polls placed Jewish Home as the third largest party with a projected 13 seats and the Joint (Arab) List as the fourth largest with 12 seats.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid was next in line in all four polls, projected to win between 10-12 seats. The surveys were also in agreement on Moshe Kahlon’s new Kulanu party, which was set to win eight seats.
The ultra-Orthodox parties would take seven seats each in most of the polls, with the Israel Radio survey giving Sephardi party Shas a slight edge over the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism with eight seats.
Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu continued to trail behind with 5-6 seats. Left-wing Meretz was projected to win 4-6 seats, and finally Eli Yishai’s Yachad party was standing at four seats in most of the polls.
The Joint List, which garnered 12 seats in the four surveys published by Israel Radio, Walla, Maariv and Channel 1, was projected by Haaretz’s pollsters to win between 12 and 14 seats in the upcoming Knesset, depending on non-Arab voters who support it.
A Haaretz survey also published on Friday looked into voting trends in the Arab sector. Out of 458 Arab Israeli voters polled, 66.9% said they would vote for the Joint List — comprised of two Arab parties and the communist Jewish-Arab Hadash party — with the Zionist Union as the runner-up with a mere 5.7%.
Over 60% of respondents expressed interest in the Joint List joining the government, despite its leader Ayman Odeh’s insistence that it will not. Twenty-eight percent said the list should join the government no matter what, 30% said it should only join a Zionist Union-led government, and a mere 3% said it should only join a government run by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
Voters have seemingly been unfazed thus far by Tuesday’s release of a State Comptroller report showing runaway spending by the prime minister.
Surveys released by Channel 2 and Channel 10 on Wednesday showed the vast majority of Israelis saying the report had not affected their voting choice.
According to the Channel 2 poll, 92% said the report would not have an effect on their decision-making: 74% of respondents said they were not planning to vote Likud in any case, 18% said they would vote Likud anyway, 3% said they intended to vote Likud and were now unsure, 2% said they planned to vote for the ruling party but changed their minds following the release of the report, and 1% said they did not plan to vote Likud but were now considering doing so.
Among Likud voters, 78% said the report did not affect their decision, compared to 9% who said the findings on the Netanyahus’ spending led them to consider other options.
The Channel 10 survey found similar results, with 83% of 860 respondents saying they were not reconsidering their decision on which party to vote for on March 17.
The spending report released by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira detailed lavish spending by Netanyahu and his wife Sara at his official residence in Jerusalem and private home in Caesarea and alleged possible criminal misdeeds by the two.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.