After comeback announcement, poll gives Barak party 6 seats

TV survey projects center-left and Arab parties would win more seats than right-wing and Orthodox factions, though path to forming government far from clear

Former prime minister Ehud Barak at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Just hours after Ehud Barak announced his political comeback Wednesday, a television poll said the former prime minister’s new party would win six seats if national elections scheduled for September were held today.

According to the Channel 13 news survey, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the opposition Blue and White party would remain the biggest factions with 32 seats apiece, three less than they each have now.

Trailing well behind in third was the Joint (Arab) List with 12 seats.

The Joint List, an alliance of four Arab majority parties that ran together in the 2015 elections, announced last week it would reunite for the September vote. The four parties, which ran on two separate slates in April’s elections, currently have 10 seats between them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announce a ceasefire with Hamas at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, on Wednesday, November 21 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (C) and then-defense minister Ehud Barak at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Following the Joint List was Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu with seven seats, two more than it now has. Liberman’s refusal to join a prospective coalition led by Netanyahu over disagreements on an ultra-Orthodox military draft bill helped precipitate the calling of fresh elections.

Shas and United Torah Judaism, a pair of ultra-Orthodox parties, would each drop from eight seats to six, while the left-wing Meretz would jump from four to six.

The poll said the center-left Labor Party, which dropped to a historic low of six seats in April’s elections, would lose a further seat.

The Union of Right-Wing Parties, which now has five seats, would receive four, while Naftali Bennett’s New Right, which failed to clear the electoral threshold in the April elections, would also get four.

Overall, the survey said the center-left and Arab parties together would pick up 61 seats, while right-wing factions would get 52. The poll left Yisrael Beytenu, a secular right-wing party, outside either bloc, as Liberman has said he will not join a center-left government, but is also unlikely to be part of a Netanyahu-led coalition that includes the ultra-Orthodox parties.

No Arab parties have ever been part of a ruling coalition. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said ahead of April’s elections that he would join a government with “anyone Jewish and Zionist,” making it difficult to see his party now teaming up with Arab factions.

Polls on Israelis’ voting intentions have been well off the mark in past election campaigns.

Separately, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that an internal poll indicating overwhelming support among Israelis for a unity government between Likud and Blue and White prompted the latter’s push to cancel the upcoming elections.

According to the report, 69 percent of survey respondents said they would favor canceling the elections and the formation of national unity government.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)

Both Netanyahu and Gantz have denied they were seeking to form a unity government in a bid to avert fresh elections.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced he would “consider” a proposal by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to cancel the September 17 vote, called last month after he failed to form a coalition following the April election.

It is not clear whether such a move is legally possible, after the legislature voted in late May to disband. On Wednesday, Channel 13 reported that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon was drafting an opinion saying there is no legal basis for canceling the September elections. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has already told politicians that calling off the vote wasn’t legally possible, Channel 12 has reported.

In addition, Edelstein’s plan appears to hinge on Blue and White joining Likud in a unity government. But the party has said this is out of the question so long as Netanyahu is leading Likud.

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