Likud sans Netanyahu could result in Blue and White victory, poll shows

Likud sans Netanyahu could result in Blue and White victory, poll shows

Political impasse unlikely to end after a third election, Channel 12 survey indicates, unless the embattled prime minister is no longer head of the ruling party

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressees his supporters at party headquarters after elections in Tel Aviv, September 18, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressees his supporters at party headquarters after elections in Tel Aviv, September 18, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

A new election is not likely to get the country out of its current political impasse, according to a poll published Tuesday, unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is out of the picture.

The Channel 12 survey found little change in the parliamentary math that has prevented the formation of a government after two consecutive elections in April and September.  That changes dramatically if Netanyahu is no longer Likud’s candidate for prime minister.

According to the poll, Blue and White will once again, as it has in September, emerge the largest party, rising to 34 seats from its current 33.

Likud would come in a close second, with 33 to its current 32.

The third-largest party, yet again, is the Arab Joint List alliance, with 13, the same number as today.

Blue and White party chairman MK Benny Gantz at the Blue and White headquarters on elections night in Tel Aviv, on September 18, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The figures change a bit for the smaller parties — ultra-Orthodox factions are stable, while both the smaller left-wing and right-wing parties shrink.

Shas and United Torah Judaism got 8 each, meaning one less for Shas and one more for UTJ than the current Knesset.

On the right, New Right wins 6, while Jewish Home-National Union drops below the 3.25-percent electoral threshold to 2.9% of votes. Since the two factions together won 7 seats in September, that marks only a small change overall. On the left, Labor-Gesher drops from 6 seats to 5, while the Democratic Camp drops from 5 to 4.

The tally, then, for the rightist-Haredi coalition that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to lead, is 55 — the same as today, and six short of the 61-seat majority required to form a government.

One of the poll’s most interesting findings, and the one that ensures the political stalemate is likely to continue, is the strong showing for Yisrael Beytenu, whose leader Avigdor Liberman has refused to join any coalition except a secularist national unity government with both Likud and Blue and White.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman tours the Sarona Market shopping center in Tel Aviv on election day, September 17, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

His stubbornness has paid off handsomely, bringing him from 5 in the April election to 8 in September — to 9 in the latest poll.

That may be why respondents said by a two-to-one margin, 54% to 26%, that Netanyahu would continue to find himself unable to form a coalition, even after a third election. On the left and center, 77% predicted Netanyahu would fail, while the right was split evenly, with 41% predicting failure and 40% predicting success.

But everything changes if the embattled Netanyahu, facing corruption charges in three criminal cases, is forced out as Likud leader.

In the poll, respondents were asked how they would vote if Netanyahu’s main primary challenger, MK Gideon Sa’ar, was leading Likud instead.

The answer bodes poorly for Likud, as votes are reshuffled among right-wing parties, largely to its detriment, while no real difference emerges in the final tally of parliamentary blocs.

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar seen with Likud supporters during an event in the city of Hod Hasharon, November 25, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Thus, Likud falls precipitously to 26 seats. Some of those lost Likud votes, as has happened in the past, go to Shas, which jumps to 10 seats. More go to New Right, which leaps to 9 seats.

The far-right Jewish Home-National Union would not enjoy a similar windfall from Likud’s losses, remaining outside the Knesset at 2.9% of votes.

Outside the rightist-Haredi factions, Blue and White rises slightly to 35 seats, widening the gap with Likud to fully 9 seats.

The Joint List stays at third place, with the same 13. UTJ stays at 8.

The left, too, is largely unaffected: Labor-Gesher at 6 and Democratic Camp at 4.

Then-education minister Naftali Bennett and then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked from the New Right party at an election campaign tour in central Jerusalem on January 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

And, crucially, kingmaker Yisrael Beytenu retains its strength at 9 seats.

A rightist-Haredi coalition, then, would stand at 53, but with a smaller Likud unlikely to get the first shot at forming a coalition, could have a harder time preventing a Gantz-led government in the next round.

Then again, with Netanyahu gone and Sa’ar thought to be more open to compromise for a unity government, Likud may not need the rest of the conservative factions. Blue and White and Likud could form a 61-seat coalition all by themselves, with Liberman’s 9 added in for good measure, not to mention others who have already said they would be happy to join such a government, like New Right (9) and Labor-Gesher (6).

A Sa’ar-led Likud, the poll suggests, would therefore likely end the political deadlock in a way that would benefit Blue and White, New Right and Yisrael Beytenu, and those factions in Likud (and there are a few) eager to move on from the Netanyahu era.

The big losers, of course, would be Netanyahu himself and the Haredi parties.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (C), Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (L) and United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni attend a Shas party conference at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem on February 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Another relevant data point from the survey concerns overall public trust in Sa’ar.

Given a choice of Netanyahu or Gantz for who was most fit to be prime minister, 40% said Netanyahu and 39% Gantz. (Another 14% said neither was fit, 7% did not know.)

Asked the same question with Sa’ar and Gantz, Gantz sees 40%, Sa’ar 23%. “Neither” jumped to 24%, “Don’t know” to 13%.

The survey was conduct by pollster Mano Geva and the Midgam institute, with 510 adult respondents answering by phone and online on November 26. The margin of error was 4.4%.

read more: