As coalition teeters, polls show Likud rise, but election might again yield gridlock

Surveys suggest Netanyahu could form a government if joined by Yamina after new national vote — but it is not clear that such an alliance would be viable

Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, and his wife Galit vote in the city of Ra'anana, Israel, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, and his wife Galit vote in the city of Ra'anana, Israel, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Snap polls carried out in the wake of Yamina MK Idit Silman’s defection from the governing coalition on Wednesday showed Benjamin Netanyahu’s position strengthening if a new election were held today — but it is unclear whether he could form a government.

With Silman’s exit, the current government is teetering on the blink of collapse after losing its one-seat majority, and now holds just 60 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Polls by all three major television networks examined the likely election results if the same raft of parties currently represented in the Knesset were to run in the same configuration — already an unlikely scenario, as nearly every new national vote sees changes, splits, mergers and new players in the political game.

They found Netanyahu’s Likud strengthening. Though his current bloc of right-wing and religious parties was unable to secure a 61-seat majority in the polls, they showed he could do so with the support of the current coalition’s Yamina party.

However, his intense enmity with that party’s leader, his successor in the Prime Minister’s Office, Naftali Bennett, makes it unclear how likely that scenario would be.

A poll published by Kan news had Likud at 35 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 19 seats; Blue and White, Religious Zionism and Shas with 8; United Torah Judaism with 7; Joint List and Yamina with 6; Meretz, Labor and New Hope with 5; and Ra’am and Yisrael Beytenu with 4 each.

Channel 13 showed Likud jumping to 38 seats from its current 30; Yesh Atid receiving 17; Blue and White getting 9; Religious Zionism 8; Yamina, Shas and UTJ 7; Yisrael Beytenu, Labor and the Joint List 6; Meretz 5; Ra’am 4; and New Hope not passing the electoral threshold.

On Channel 12, Likud received 35 seats; Yesh Atid 17; Shas 9; Blue and White 8; UTJ, Labor and Religious Zionism 7; the Joint List 6; Yamina, Meretz, Ra’am and Yisrael Beytenu 5; and New Hope 4.

In all three of the polls, the Netanyahu bloc would not be able to form a majority coalition without the support of a party currently in the government.

Leader of the Opposition and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 6, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Silman’s announcement means the current government will only be able to pass legislation with support from opposition lawmakers. The only party that would perhaps provide it with votes for some legislation would be the Joint List of Arab factions, but its support would only serve to further alienate coalition members on the right.

According to reports, Silman is set to join Likud in the opposition, giving Benjamin Netanyahu’s party two main potential options to return to power.

The first would be to pass a law to dissolve the Knesset. To pass, this would require the support of at least 61 of the 120 members of Knesset.

The bill would therefore necessitate the widespread backing of the current opposition, including members of the six-strong Joint List of Arab lawmakers, and the support of some lawmakers not currently in the opposition.

With the Knesset in recess, scheduling a vote on such a bill is thought to be unlikely for a few more weeks.

If such a bill were to pass, coalition agreements stipulate that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would be automatically appointed prime minister for the transition period through new elections and the establishment and swearing-in of a new government.

Idit Silman, then-head of the Arrangements Committee, leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The second option would be for Likud to form an alternative government in the current 24th Knesset, although it would struggle to do so — Likud has 29 seats, Religious Zionism has seven, Shas has nine and United Torah Judaism has seven — a total of 52.

Even if Yamina were to split apart, and Silman were joined by other Yamina defectors, the Likud-led bloc would still not have enough seats for a Knesset majority, and would need further support from within the current coalition ranks, such as, potentially, disaffected members of Benny Gantz’s eight-strong Blue and White party.

Since the government was formed, there have been multiple reports of attempts by the opposition to poach coalition lawmakers and topple the government.

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