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Israel votes on Tuesday

Final TV polls show Netanyahu gaining support and near to majority; rivals slip

PM’s Likud projected to win 30-32 seats, and to clinch 60 along with declared and potential partners; 51% don’t want him as PM, but he’s still far more popular than his challengers

A man walks near an election campaign poster showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 18, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man walks near an election campaign poster showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 18, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Final polls aired by Channel 12 and Channel 13 Friday ahead of Tuesday’s national election showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the cusp of clinching a ruling majority as the race draws to a close, though he is still not guaranteed one.

Channel 12’s survey showed Netanyahu’s Likud gaining momentum, with the party having gained three seats in the past week. And while a majority of respondents, 51 percent, do not want him to continue as prime minister, he is far more popular than any other single candidate.

Both polls showed Likud and its religious allies at 60 seats, one seat short of a bare minimum majority in the 120-member Knesset. Potential support from the rogue Arab party Ra’am could take the premier over the top, but such an alliance is strongly opposed by the hard right.

Channel 12 showed Likud with 32 seats, its highest result in months; opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 18; Naftali Bennett’s Yamina with 9; Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope with 9; the Joint List of majority Arab parties has 8; ultra-Orthodox Shas has 8; United Torah Judaism with 7; Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu with 7; and Labor at 6.

Four parties were hovering just above the 3.25% electoral threshold: Blue and White, Religious Zionism, Meretz and Ra’am, which broke away from the Joint List, all had 4 seats.

One or more of those parties dropping below the threshold could cause potentially dramatic changes in the overall distribution of seats and help one side or another build a coalition.

In total, Netanyahu and his declared allies in Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionism had 51 seats. Yamina, which has not ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition, would add nine to reach 60.

Meanwhile, the bloc of parties that have ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led government had 56 seats. Ra’am has not committed one way or another.

On Channel 13 the seat distributions were: Likud 30; Yesh Atid 18; Yamina 10; New Hope 10; Joint List 8; Shas 8; UTJ 7; Yisrael Beytenu 6; Labor 6; Religious Zionism 5; Meretz 4; Blue and White 4; and Ra’am 4.

Netanyahu and his allies had 50, with Yamina potentially taking that up to 60. The anti-Netanyahu bloc once again had 56, with Ra’am supposedly neutral.

Channel 12 noted the dramatic fall in the past three months of both Yamina and New Hope in polling, with both having polled at some 20 seats at some points during the race, and now halving their power in the most recent projections.

Asked who they preferred as prime minister, 36% said Netanyahu, 23% said Lapid, 12% said Sa’ar and 7% said Bennett.

Asked if they wanted Netanyahu to continue as prime minister, 51% said no, 36% said yes and 13% said they don’t know.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett at a protest against the state’s intention to close the Hilla Project, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on August 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The poll also asked what those surveyed expected the election results to be: 40% said Netanyahu would form a new coalition, 38% said no coalition will be formed and a fifth election will be called, 11% said Netanyahu’s opponents would form a coalition, and 11% did not know.

While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the weeks leading up to elections and are not seen as overly reliable, taken together, the surveys can often serve as a general gauge of the political climate and where the vote may be headed.

The upcoming elections — the fourth in two years — were called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.

The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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