A Channel 10 poll Tuesday night showed the Labor Party and its leader, Isaac Herzog, gaining ground dramatically at the expense of Likud and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If Labor were to compete in the March 17, 2015, elections with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima party merged into its ranks, it would win 22 seats, compared to Likud’s 20, the survey showed. The three parties have reportedly been in talks about a possible merger.
Perhaps more strikingly, 22 percent of respondents cited Herzog as their preferred prime minister, with Netanyahu just one point ahead at 23%. Previous polls have shown Netanyahu well clear of potential prime ministerial rivals.
However, the poll also offered respondents the choice of another Likud politician, former minister Gideon Sa’ar, for prime minister — which a Likud critic said distorted the result.
The poll, carried out by the Midgam Project and Prof. Camille Fuchs, was broadcast a day after the Knesset formally voted to dissolve and hold new elections following the collapse of the Netanyahu-led coalition.
The survey gave Labor (running with Hatnua and Kadima) 22 seats, Likud 20, Jewish Home 15, Moshe Kahlon’s as-yet-unnamed party 13, Yisrael Beytenu 11, Yesh Atid 10, Shas 7, United Torah Judaism 7, Meretz 6, Hadash 5 and Ra’am-Ta’al 4. (Incidentally, if former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar were to head Likud, it would also get 20 seats; Sa’ar, who left the Knesset a few weeks ago, has not indicated that he plans a comeback.)
Such a breakdown would not give Herzog simple coalition-building options, the TV report noted. He would somehow have to encourage Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and the ultra-Orthodox parties to reconcile their differences to sit together, or Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz, or some other complicated permutation.
Asked their preferred choice for prime minister, 23% said Netanyahu, 22% Herzog, 13% former Likud minister Sa’ar, 13% Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, 10% Kahlon, 10% Liberman and 9% Lapid.
Likud’s Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said the pollsters had “played a bit of a trick… mathematically” by including Sa’ar in its list of potential prime ministers, thus reducing the level of support for Netanyahu.
Channel 10 described the findings as marking a “collapse” in support for Netanyahu. Tellingly, the poll found most Israelis do not believe the prime minister’s latest pledge, to scrap VAT on basic foods. Asked if they believed Netanyahu would follow through on the pledge, 62% said no, and 22% yes.
Tuesday’s poll followed a survey by the Knesset Channel on Monday that also showed that a center-left alliance of Herzog’s Labor and Livni’s Hatnua could garner more votes than Likud.
According to that poll, a joint Herzog-Livni list would receive 23 seats, compared to Likud’s 21. If the two ran separately, Hatnua would not pass the electoral threshold and Labor would only receive 17 seats. Twenty-six percent of participants said Netanyahu was the most suitable prime ministerial candidate, 15% said Herzog, and 11% said Bennett.