If elections were to be held today, they would result in a drastic government shakeup, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would remain at the top of the heap, according to a poll published Monday.
Professor Ytzhak Katz of Maagar Mochot research institute conducted the poll for Channel 10 amid reports of a major rift brewing in the governing coalition between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the 2015 budget that could result in Lapid’s Yesh Atid party — and its 19 Knesset seats — bolting the coalition.
According to the survey results, Likud would garner 26 seats, which would be five seats less than it won in 2013 when it ran on a joint ticket with Yisrael Beytenu, but still comfortably ahead of the poll’s predicted biggest gainer — the hawkish Jewish Home, Katz told Channel 10.
The poll had Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s party gaining four seats, bringing its total to 16 and making it the second-largest party in the Knesset, followed by Yisrael Beytenu with 14 seats, up three from today, and Labor with 13.
The centrist Yesh Atid would be the biggest loser in new elections, falling from second place to fifth with only eight seats — down 11 seats from its current representation.
Last week, the finance minister threatened to pull out of the coalition if taxes were raised to cover the costs of the 50-day conflict in Gaza over the summer, estimated at $2.5 billion. Lapid has been pushing instead to increase the deficit cap to 3.5% of the GDP in the 2015 budget to cover the defense spending.
Bank of Israel head Karnit Flug, Netanyahu, and Bennett have all publicly opposed Lapid’s proposal.
Amid mounting criticism of his fiscal plan for the 2015 budget, Lapid said, “I will not sit in a government that goes again and puts its hands in the pockets of Israeli citizens when there is no real need for it.”
Following the threat, coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) urged Netanyahu to consider a reorganization of the coalition, asserting that Lapid’s party may have to be preemptively pushed out of the government.
Yesh Atid could be replaced by ultra-Orthodox parties, which have been waiting on the sidelines after Lapid refused to join a coalition in which they were members.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.