Former Netanyahu allies could unseat prime minister, poll finds
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Former Netanyahu allies could unseat prime minister, poll finds

Hypothetical faction headed by Gabi Ashkenazi, Moshe Kahlon and Gideon Sa’ar would be able to form right- or left-wing government without Likud

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in Tel Aviv on March 24, 2015. (Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in Tel Aviv on March 24, 2015. (Flash90)

A hypothetical party headed by former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon could unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a future election, a new poll published Thursday found.

The survey, conducted by Dialog and published in Haaretz, found that if elections were held this week, a party including those three would garner 23 seats, compared to Likud’s 22, making it the largest party in Israel’s parliament.

It would hypothetically be capable of forming a right- or left-wing governing coalition without Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Neither Ashkenazi nor Sa’ar, a former interior minister, have formally announced their intention to run for office or create a party, but the latter is a close associate of Kahlon, who currently heads the Kulanu party.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on January 31, 2016. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL

Both Kahlon and Sa’ar were at one time stalwarts of the Likud party and both enjoyed considerable popularity within the party.

Ashkenazi is considered to be to the left of Kahlon and Sa’ar on the political spectrum, but would contribute considerable security clout to their party list.

In the poll, which comes a year after the last round of elections were held and without a new vote on the horizon, the center-left Zionist Union would also shrink, to 15 seats from its current 23. The centrist Yesh Atid party would grow to 13 seats from its current 11. The remaining ultra-Orthodox, Arab and far-right and far-left parties would be largely unchanged.

The poll, which questioned 504 respondents, showed that a center-right party with Ashkenazi, Kahlon and Sa’ar would be able to prevent the Likud party from forming a government.

It didn’t specify which of the triumvirate — Kahlon, Sa’ar and Ashkenazi — would be the party leader, and potentially the prime minister in the scenario.

The poll had a 4.4% margin of error.

Recent polls gave Kahlon’s Kulanu party just seven seats in a future election, three fewer than it currently has. But joining forces with the two political outsiders would increase his potential stake more than threefold.

Kahlon broke away from the Likud party after serving as communications minister in Netanyahu’s government and being credited with enacting reforms to the mobile phone industry.

After quitting politics in 2012, he formed his own center-right party, Kulanu, ahead of last year’s March 2015 elections.

File: Then-interior minister Gideon Sa'ar at a press conference announcing he was resigning from the cabinet and Knesset and taking a break from politics, September 17, 2014. (Flash90)
File: Then-interior minister Gideon Sa’ar at a press conference announcing he was resigning from the cabinet and Knesset and taking a break from politics, September 17, 2014. (Flash90)

Sa’ar, for his part, resigned from political office in November 2014, before elections were called, and has recently sniped at the prime minister from the sidelines amid speculation of a return to politics.

Ashkenazi retired from the military in 2010, after becoming embroiled in a succession scandal that highlighted a deep rift with then defense minister Ehud Barak. Speculation has swirled around him possible running for office since being largely cleared in the so-called Harpaz affair earlier this year.

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