39% blame Netanyahu for 3rd election; 29% Liberman; 9% Gantz

Blue and White opens 3-seat lead over Likud in first poll of new elections

But survey suggests 3rd round of voting in less than a year would fail to break political gridlock; majority say Netanyahu can’t remain PM in light of graft charges

Blue and White head Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Flash90)
Blue and White head Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Flash90)

The Blue and White party is building a lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, according to a pre-election poll released Thursday, but neither would receive enough support together with their allies to break Israel’s months-long political stalemate.

The Channel 12 poll, the first since a third round of elections in less than a year was called after the Knesset disbanded at midnight Wednesday, also put Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz neck-and-neck in who is best suited to be premier, suggesting corruption charges recently announced against the Likud leader hadn’t significantly dented support among his backers.

If elections were held today, the poll said Blue and White would pick up 35 seats, up from 33 now, while Likud would maintain its current 32.

The Joint List, a coalition of four majority Arab parties, would match its current tally of 13 seats, as would Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu at eight.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on December 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman, a right-wing secularist, helped trigger the current impasse after refusing to join a Netanyahu-led coalition following elections in April over disagreements with the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox allies.

After September’s elections, Liberman sought to force a government of Yisrael Beytenu, Likud and Blue and White, but unity talks broke down with the two largest parties arguing over the terms of such a coalition.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas would drop from nine to eight seats, according to the poll, whereas fellow Haredi party United Torah Judaism would grow to eight seats from seven.

The New Right, a nationalist party to the right of Likud, would receive six seats, up from three.

The left-wing Democratic Camp would match its current total of five seats, while the center-left Labor-Gesher would drop from six to five.

Jewish Home-National Union, a pair of national-religious factions that ran in the last elections as part of the Yamina alliance with New Right, would fail to clear the 3.25 percent minimum electoral threshold, as would the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

Overall, Likud and its allies would get 54 seats, down one, and the center-left and Arab parties would grow by one seat to 58, with Liberman retaining the kingmaker position in between the two blocs.

The poll also asked about voting preferences should MK Gideon Sa’ar achieve a major upset and defeat Netanyahu in a Likud leadership primary set for later this month.

Blue and White would still get 35 seats in such a scenario, while Likud would drop to 26. The right-wing bloc, however, would pick up 55 rather than 54 seats with Sa’ar at the helm of Likud, as Jewish Home-National Union would make it into the Knesset with four seats.

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar at a conference in the southern city of Ashkelon, December 12, 2019. (Flash90)

Asked who was best suited to be prime minister, 38% said Netanyahu and 37% Gantz, a statistical tie in light of the poll’s 4.4% margin of error.

When paired with Sa’ar, 36% said Gantz, well ahead of the 22% who picked the Likud MK.

A plurality of respondents pinned the blame for third elections on Netanyahu, with 39% saying he was responsible. Another 29% blamed Liberman and 9% said Gantz. Sixteen percent said the three were equally to blame for newly called elections.

Additionally, 56% said Netanyahu can’t continue as prime minister after he was charged last month in a trio of graft cases. On the flipside, 37% said he can continue in the post while 7% didn’t know.

Netanyahu was charged last month with fraud and breach of trust in the three cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing, accusing investigators, political rivals and the media of a “coup” and vowing to stay in office.

The Channel 12 survey, conducted by pollster Manu Geva, included 513 respondents.

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