4th poll shows extremist Otzma Yehudit in Knesset, Blue and White ahead of Likud

Anti-Arab party’s entry into parliament would put Netanyahu’s theoretical right-wing coalition at 58 seats, still short of majority, survey finds

Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit at a party branch in Safed, northern Israel, on September 8, 2019 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit at a party branch in Safed, northern Israel, on September 8, 2019 (David Cohen/Flash90)

An opinion poll published Tuesday, a week ahead of the election, showed the extremist Otzma Yehudit party entering the next Knesset with four seats — the fourth poll in recent days predicting such a result.

In previous polling, the far-right party had been seen as close to the threshold but still short of passing it.

But polls in recent days by Walla, the Israel Hayom newspaper and the Knesset Channel each saw Otzma Yehudit passing the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent, entering the legislature with four seats.

Tuesday’s poll, published by the Kan public broadcaster, shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still falling short of a 61-seat majority of right-wing parties without Yisrael Beytenu and being able to cobble together only 58 seats.

The centrist Blue and White party got 32 seats in the poll, one ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud, which garnered 31.

The Joint List, an alliance of Arab and mostly-Arab parties, got the next highest number of seats, 10, followed closely by right-wing Yamina with nine. Yisrael Beytenu, the secularist Russian-speaking party whose leader Avigdor Liberman’s spat with Haredi parties torpedoed the establishment of a right-wing coalition in May.  got eight.

Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism each got seven seats in the poll, with the Democratic Camp at six.

Labor-Gesher was predicted to get five seats, and Otzma Yehudit four.

The poll was the result of online responses from 546 participants out of 1,639 people asked in a representative sample of Israel’s adult population. The poll had a 4.3% margin of error.

A poll published Monday by the Walla news site also showed Netanyahu coming up short of a 61-seat majority. Monday’s poll, conducted by the Midgam polling firm, gave Blue and White 33 seats in the 22nd Knesset, two more than a poll last week by the firm, and one ahead of Likud’s 32.

As Walla noted, the slight bump, which is still within the margin of error but reflects a similar trend in other polls, comes amid the centrist party’s new secularist campaign, which called for a secular unity coalition with Likud that would upend ultra-Orthodox control over religious policies.

Liberman too has said he plans to force a unity government following the elections, bringing together Likud and Blue and White and keeping religious parties out of the coalition.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz attends the Srugim conference in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, Likud urged right-wing voters to avoid Otzma Yehudit, saying it would not make it past the electoral threshold and would thus “waste” right-wing votes.

Likud and Blue and White have been mostly polling neck and neck. In a bid to ensure it edges past Blue and White, the ruling party has urged voters for right-wing parties to abandon their factions in favor of Likud, and resumed its controversial scare tactics targeting the Arab public, often warning that its rivals plan to form a government with the Arab parties (Blue and White has ruled out any coalition with non-Zionist parties, and no Arab party has ever sat in a ruling coalition).

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked last week urged Otzma Yehudit to withdraw from the race. “Otzma Yehudit won’t clear the electoral threshold and its two seats will move over to the left,” the former justice minister told Israel Radio.

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