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58% say they don't want Netanyahu as PM after elections

Likud loses a little ground, would be unable to form coalition, poll finds

Nearly 60% believe Yamina will side with Netanyahu after election, but even if he does, survey suggests, it still won’t give PM enough support to remain in office

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A poll released Thursday night predicted a further small slide for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party compared to previous surveys.

The Channel 13 poll showed that if elections were held now Likud would win 27 seats, one down from another poll published the night before, and a significant drop from the 36 seats the party currently holds in the Knesset.

Second to Likud would be Yesh Atid, led by MK Yair Lapid, with 18 seats, then New Hope led by Gideon Sa’ar with 13, and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina with 11.

The remaining seats would be divided as follows: The Joint List, 8; Shas and fellow ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, 7 each; Yisrael Beytenu, 6; Labor, 6; Meretz, 5; Blue and White, 4; Religious Zionism Party, 4; Arab Israeli party Ra’am, 4.

A right-wing bloc of parties definitely backing Netanyahu consisting of his own Likud, Religious Zionism and the two ultra-Orthodox parties would total only 45 seats, the poll predicted. It would face a bloc of parties aiming to replace Netanyahu that hold 60 seats — half the Knesset’s 120.

That would leave Bennet’s Yamina in a position to tip the balance against Netanyahu’s bloc, but not with enough weight to give the right-wing bloc a majority. There is speculation that Ra’am, whose leader Mansour Abbas has in recent months repeatedly voiced willingness to work with Netanyahu, could also back the premier — but even if Yamina and Ra’am both back Netanyahu, that would merely bring him to 60 seats, one vote short of a parliamentary majority.

Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu, is now campaigning to become prime minister himself. Yet the poll found that 59 percent believe he will join Netanyahu after the election, while just 19% believe he will side with those opposing the incumbent prime minister.

The poll also probed who is seen as most suitable to be prime minister, with 37% preferring Netanyahu, compared to 21% for Lapid, 14% for Sa’ar, and just 9% for Bennett.

Meanwhile, 58% said they don’t want Netanyahu to continue as prime minister after the election, 33% said they do want him and 9% said they don’t care.

However, asked who they would prefer to lead the country if Netanyahu is not an option, 25% favored Lapid, 20% Bennett, and 14% Sa’ar, while the largest group, 27%, responded that none of the candidates are suitable.

It is far from clear that the anti-Netanyahu bloc could form a coalition, even if Yamina were to be a part of it.

Sa’ar and Bennett have both said they will not back a government led by Lapid, while Lapid insists that he, as the leader of the prospective second-largest party, should lead the bloc.

Still, both have said they would not oppose sitting alongside Yesh Atid in a government, so long as Lapid is not the prime minister.

Channel 13 assessed that despite the success of the country’s coronavirus vaccination drive, which Netanyahu has made a central plank of his election campaign, Likud has not seen a rally in support because there is still widespread concern over the economic situation caused by the virus outbreak, which many feel has not been properly addressed by the government.

The Kamel Fuchs survey for Channel 13 sampled 787 people and had a margin of error of 3.5%.

While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the months 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.

Previous surveys have generally predicted political deadlock after the election, with no party having a clear path to assembling a majority coalition.

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