Center, left and Arab parties near majority in TV poll, as Netanyahu’s bloc dips
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Center, left and Arab parties near majority in TV poll, as Netanyahu’s bloc dips

Despite bump in support for Gantz and his allies, survey predicts Avigdor Liberman will retain his kingmaker status, potentially setting up further political stalemate

A composite photo showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Blue and White party chief, Benny Gantz, right, speaking separately at a media conference in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Hadas Parush/Flash90)
A composite photo showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Blue and White party chief, Benny Gantz, right, speaking separately at a media conference in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz would fall just two seat shorts of a majority together with left-leaning and predominantly Arab parties if the upcoming national elections were held now, according to a television poll released Friday.

Blue and White would get 35 seats if the March 2 vote was today, Channel 13 said, up two from its current tally and similar to the results of other recent polls.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would pick up 33 seats, a one seat gain from the last elections.

The Joint List, an alliance of four majority Arab parties, was forecast to win 14 seats, up one from its present seat count.

Joint List present their party slate to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

While the mostly Arab Joint list broke with decades of tradition after September’s Israeli elections and recommended Gantz for prime minister, it is not clear if it will back him again after the March vote.

Party MK Yousuf Jabareen last week said that it would not back him again after Gantz promised he would work to adopt the Trump peace plan if elected. Gantz said he would do so in coordination with the Palestinians and other regional players.

Labor-Gesher-Meretz, an alliance of Labor-Gesher with the left-wing Meretz party, got 10 seats in the Channel 13 poll. Labor-Gesher picked up six seats in September, while Meretz ran in the last elections as part of the Democratic Camp, which received five seats.

Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party received eight seats in the survey, maintaining its current strength.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas, which now has nine seats, dropped to seven in the poll, while fellow ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism matched its present total of seven seats.

Rounding out the poll was the national-religious Yamina party, which was forecast to drop from seven to six seats. Otzma Yehudit, an extreme right-wing party whose inclusion in Yamina Netanyahu pushed for, did not pass the minimum electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the total vote.

The results gave Blue and White 59 seats together with Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the Joint List, two short of a majority in the 120 seat Knesset.

Likud and the religious parties, which acted as a united bloc after the vote in September, would slip from 55 to 53 seats.

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

The poll results set up Liberman to remain as kingmaker between the Knesset blocs, with neither Gantz nor Netanyahu having a clear path to a majority without him, likely portending further political deadlock.

Asked who was better suited to be prime minister, 44% of respondents to the Channel 13 poll, said Netanyahu, 32% Gantz, 16% neither and 8% didn’t know.

The survey, conducted by pollster Camil Fuchs, included 701 respondents and had a 3.8% margin of error.

TV polls last week had Likud inching closer to Blue and White, following the release of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan during a White House ceremony attended by Netanyahu.

However, Netanyahu was also indicted last week on graft charges — making him the first Israeli premier to become a criminal defendant while in office — and has been forced to walk back a vow to swiftly annex parts of the West Bank after the Trump administration opposed him doing so at least until a new Israeli government is formed.

The upcoming elections are the third in less than a year, after the first two failed to produce a government, a first in Israeli history.

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