After he humiliatingly ditched Livni, Gabbay’s Labor slumps in polls

TV surveys find Netanyahu’s Likud still far ahead of the pack; Jewish Home predicted to struggle to remain in Knesset, after Bennett and Shaked quit

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock break up of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay (L) announces the shock break up of the Zionist Union as his erstwhile partner, head of opposition Tzipi Livni, looks on, during a party faction meeting in the Knesset on January 1, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Television polls published Wednesday indicated that Labor leader Avi Gabbay’s public termination of his partnership with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party damaged his party’s standing in the eyes of the Israeli public.

Two polls, one by Hadashot news and the other by the Kan public broadcaster, found that if elections were held today Labor would win only eight or seven seats, respectively, down from the nine seats predicted in polls earlier this week — before Gabbay’s humiliating cancellation on Tuesday of Labor’s Zionist Union alliance with Livni and her Hatnua party.

The Hadashot poll found that if Livni were to run on her own, Hatnua would receive five seats. However, the Kan poll predicted that Livni would not pass the four-seat minimum threshold.

Gabbay made the announcement that he was dissolving his partnership with Livni — thus disbanding the Labor-Hatnua partnership that constituted the Zionist Union — on live TV, as Livni sat by his side, without having given her advance notice.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, arrives in the Knesset plenum for a vote on a bill to dissolve parliament, in Jerusalem on December 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Both polls Wednesday put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party far ahead of any challengers, with 31 seats according to Hadashot, and 28 seats in the Kan survey, similar to previous polls. In the 2015 elections Likud won 30 seats.

The next-largest faction, the polls found, would be Israel Resilience, a supposedly centrist party set up last week by former IDF chief Benny Gantz, who has yet to make any public statements about his political opinions. Hadashot gave Gantz 12 seats while Kan gave him 14, also similar to other recent polls.

Hadashot asked how people would vote if Livni jointed forces with Gantz. Other than giving them a combined force of 15 seats, such a partnership made no other significant impact on other parties.

Both polls put the Joint (Arab) List at 12 seats, one fewer than the 13 Knesset seats it currently holds.

For some of the remaining parties there were significant differences between the Hadashot and Kan results.

Yesh Atid, the centrist party led by Yair Lapid, won 13 seats in the Kan poll, but just 10 according to Hadashot. Last week a Kan poll gave Yesh Atid 16 seats, while Hadashot gave the party 12. Yesh Atid currently has 11 Knesset seats.

The New Right party, led by Education Minister and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who broke away from Jewish Home, scored nine seats in the Kan poll — down from a predicted 14 in an earlier poll by the same channel — but just six seats according to Hadashot, matching a previous result.

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked seen after a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Jewish Home, having lost its two most senior members, scored the minimum four seats with Hadashot and failed to pass even that threshold in the Kan survey. The Kan result showed that many Jewish Home voters were moving to the New Right. In the last elections, under the leadership of Bennett and his number two, Shaked, Jewish Home won eight Knesset seats.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party was given seven seats in both polls on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party won seven seats in the Kan survey but only five with Hadashot.

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman’s hawkish Yisrael Beytenu party and the dovish left-wing Meretz party, led by MK Tamar Zandberg, both won five seats in the Hadashot poll, while Kan gave Meretz six.

Gesher, a new centrist party created by independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, led by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, both garnered five seats according to Hadashot and six according to Kan.

The polls also asked who should lead the country: Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009, or Gantz, who is new to the political field.

According to both channels Netanyahu is preferred, with Hadashot giving him 35% backing with 28% for Gantz, while Kan recorded 40% backing for Netanyahu against 30% for Gantz. Lapid gets 24% backing against Netanyahu, Kan found; Hadashot gave him just 17%.

The Knesset voted to dissolve last week and set elections for April 9.

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