Polls published in Israeli media on Friday showed the center-left Zionist Union gaining some ground against its right-wing Likud rivals ahead of March 17’s general elections.
Zionist Union had a slight edge over Likud in two polls: 25-23 mandates in a Maariv poll and 23-22 in an Israel Radio poll. A survey on the Walla news site had the two parties tied at 23, while the website’s poll last week had Likud leading by one seat.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Home party saw a slight dip in the surveys. While four different polls last week placed Naftali Bennett’s national religious party in a solid third place with 13 mandates, Friday’s numbers were less encouraging: Maariv had the Joint (Arab) List as the third largest party with 13 seats, followed by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid at 12 and Jewish Home at 11. Israel Radio also had the Joint List at 13, with Jewish Home and Yesh Atid tied at 12. Meanwhile the Walla poll kept Jewish Home at 13, but it was now tied with Yesh Atid, followed by the Joint List with 12.
Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party received 9 Knesset seats in the Israel Radio poll, 8 in Maariv and 7 in Walla.
Walla and Maariv had ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism tied at 7 seats, while Israel Radio gave Shas the lead 8-6.
Next in line were polar opposites Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu. On Israel Radio, Avigdor Lieberman’s party received 6 seats to Zahava Gal-on’s 5. Walla had it 6-4, while Maariv had both parties at 5 seats.
Eli Yishai’s Yachad party had 4 seats according to Israel Radio and Maariv and 5 seats according to Walla.
Although the polls were released on Friday, they were likely conducted before Thursday’s televised debate on Channel 2, which featured the leaders of all the parties except Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud, Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and UTJ’s Yaakov Litzman.
Though the Zionist Union leads in the polls, Netanyahu continues to have a better prospect of forming a coalition than Herzog. The nature of the next government will depend 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.
The past week was a difficult one for Netanyahu, with a new report by the state comptroller released on Wednesday blaming the government for runaway housing costs in recent years.
Between 2008 and December 2013, the real cost for purchasing an apartment rose by a steep 55%, while the average monthly rent rose 30%, according to government figures. The issue of skyrocketing housing prices, amid unmet demand, has risen to the fore in recent years as Israelis have protested over the high cost of living, most notably in the summer of 2011.
The report, coming less than a month before Israelis go to the polls, was seen as having the potential to boost opposition parties looking to unseat Netanyahu by highlighting economic issues.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.