Elections 2019Left-wing Labor and Democratic Camp fading

Final polls have Netanyahu edging toward majority right-wing bloc

Momentum is with the right even though PM’s Likud and its rival Blue and White are tied in pair of TV surveys, which also have extremist Otzma Yehudit entering the Knesset

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu march at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on September 13, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu march at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on September 13, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The final polls released ahead of next week’s election indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was inching his way closer to being able to form a right-wing coalition, but still falling just short of the mark.

In the Channel 12 and 13 surveys released Friday, which under Israeli law was the last day polls were allowed to be published before the September 17 vote, Netanyahu’s Likud party and its centrist rival Blue and White were in a dead heat. However, Netanyahu’s potential right-wing coalition moved up to 59 and 58 seats in the respective surveys. Sixty-one seats are needed for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Most polls in recent months had Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious partners at 55 or 56 seats, with the rise in Friday’s polls indicating that momentum was with them in the final days before the election.

Analysts on Channel 12 noted that the right-wing bloc has traditionally also fared better in the actual vote, compared to the polls, potentially heralding good news for its constituent parties.

Camil Fuchs, the pollster who conducted the Channel 13 survey, also highlighted the difficulty of polling in the ultra-Orthodox community and said his results could be underestimating Shas and United Torah Judaism’s actual electoral strength.

Analysts also said that a low turnout was expected amid voter apathy, but he ultra-Orthodox community might duck that trend, with rabbis calling on their constituency to vote.

In both of Friday’s surveys, Likud and Blue and White were each predicted to win 32 seats. The two parties received 35 seats apiece in elections in April.

Following Likud and Blue and White in the Friday polls was the Joint List, an alliance of Arab and majority Arab parties. Channel 13 gave the Joint List 12 seats, two more than it received in the Channel 12 poll.

The four parties that make up the Joint List ran on two separate slates in April’s election and received 10 seats between them.

In the Channel 13 poll, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu was predicted to get nine seats, and eight seats in the Channel 12 poll.

Though more than the five seats Yisrael Beytenu received in the last elections, the results were less than the 10 seats the party had polled around in recent months after Liberman helped precipitate the fresh round of elections by rejecting Netanyahu’s offers to join his prospective government.

Among Netanyahu’s political allies, Yamina, a coalition of national-religious parties, got nine seats in the Channel 13 poll and eight in the Channel 12 survey. United Torah Judaism received eight and seven seats respectively from Channels 12 and 13, while the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party received seven seats from Channel 12 and six from Channel 13.

The polls also indicated that the left-wing parties were hemorrhaging support.

The left-wing Democratic Camp alliance received six seats in the Channel 12 poll and five from Channel 13.

Labor, which is running together with former MK Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party, got five seats from Channel 12 and four from Channel 13, both of which would mark an all-time low for the party whose previous iterations led Israel for nearly 30 years after the state’s founding.

A woman walks past an electoral billboard for Israeli Labor party leader Amir Peretz in coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 12, 2019, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary vote on September 17. (Photo by Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Channel 12 said there was concern in Blue and White that if it campaigned too aggressively it could siphon off enough votes from the left-wing parties as to put them in danger of not crossing the threshold.

Blue and White would need Labor and the Democratic Camp in any coalition it hopes to form.

Rounding out both polls was the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit party with four seats.

Also on Friday, Netanyahu launched a campaign to convince right-wing voters not to support Otzma Yehudit, saying internal polling indicated it would not pass the 3.25 percent threshold.

“After a thorough examination and lots of polls that we did, it is clear beyond any doubt that Otzma Yehudit won’t pass the minimum electoral threshold,” Netanyahu said in a campaign video. “Don’t throw your votes in the trash.”

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir defends his party at a Central Elections Committee debate on August 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Together with its right-wing and religious allies, Likud had 59 seats in the Channel 12 poll and 58 in the Channel 13 survey.

Though the last polls before past elections have noticeably differed from the election results, the current forecasts again position Yisrael Beytenu to be coalition kingmaker. Liberman has vowed to force a national unity government between Likud and Blue and White if neither can form a government without Yisrael Beytenu.

According to the Channel 12 poll, 40 percent of voters want a secular national government, while 29% want a government of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Another 7% want a coalition of the Orthodox and center-left parties. The rest were undecided.

If like after April’s elections, Netanyahu is unable to form a government, 45% of Likud voters told Channel 12 he should stay on as the leader of the ruling party, compared to 36% who said he should hand over the keys to another Likud member.

Blue and White has said it would be open to a coalition with Likud, but not under Netanyahu.

Additionally, 65% of percent of the poll respondents told the network that they don’t want a third round of elections.

The current round of elections was called after Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government unless a bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students was passed without changes, a demand rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox partners.

Without Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu was one seat short of a majority and rather than having another lawmaker get a crack at stringing together a government, he pushed through vote to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap poll.

Netanyahu’s failure to form a government after April’s elections and his move to subsequently call a new vote marked the first time in Israeli history that elections failed to result in the formation of a new ruling coalition.

The Channel 12 survey, conducted by pollster Manu Geva, had 605 respondents and a 4% margin of error. The Channel 13 poll included 943 respondents and 3.2% margin of error.

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