Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, said Saturday he still believed he could defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next general election, despite recent polls showing his party suffering a crushing blow to its parliamentary power if elections were held today.
The most recent poll on Saturday showed that it was neither Netanyahu’s Likud nor Herzog’s party who were most likely to form a coalition in such a scenario, but Yesh Atid and its leader Yair Lapid — which led the pack with 27 seats over Likud’s 23 and the Zionist Union’s dismal 8.
But Herzog was unfazed, telling an audience at a cultural event in Haifa that politics was “not a sprint but a long-distance race,” one in which he planned to remain.
“I am faced by one leader, Netanyahu, who is utterly losing control and another leader, Lapid, who has nothing to say on the central issues on the agenda. Lapid is clearly a right-wing leader and the public will eventually wise up.”
Herzog added that he believes Netanyahu is “a very intelligent man but very weak on the inside. He is afraid to make historic decisions that people who sat in the prime minister’s chair were able to make. I think he is a prisoner of his fears. I think he has run his course and the public is tired of him.”
Asked about the ongoing police probe of Netanyahu, amid news that the prime minister will soon be questioned over suspicions of corruption, Herzog said he wanted to “replace Netanyahu in the polls and not through investigations” but added that “the deeper the probe goes, the weaker Netanyahu’s hold over the government will become.”
The Channel 10 survey Friday showed Lapid’s centrist opposition party Yesh Atid winning 27 of the 120 Knesset seats — up from its current total of 11 — and outstripping Netanyahu’s Likud as Israel’s biggest party. This would theoretically leave Lapid strongly placed to form a majority coalition and become prime minister.
Asked directly who they prefer as prime minister, however, Netanyahu outpolled Lapid by 27% to 15%. Just 5% of respondents said Herzog was the best choice for prime minister.
The poll found that Likud would win 23 seats, down from its current total of 30, while the right-wing Orthodox Jewish Home party and the Joint (Arab) List would win 12 seats apiece. Jewish Home now has eight Knesset members while the Joint List has 13.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party would win 10 Knesset seats, up from the six it currently has.
The biggest loser was the Zionist Union, which comprises Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party. The survey found that Zionist Union would plummet from its current 24 seats to just eight, putting it on level pegging with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and giving it just one seat more than Likud offshoot Kulanu, headed by the current Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, on seven.