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Likud, Yesh Atid see boost in latest poll, New Hope plunges to under 10 seats

Political deadlock predicted to continue with no bloc gaining majority in Knesset; but support for pro-Netanyahu parties seen as much more solid than for those who oppose him

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) in the Knesset on July 29, 2013, with Naftali Bennett (left) and Gideon Sa'ar. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) in the Knesset on July 29, 2013, with Naftali Bennett (left) and Gideon Sa'ar. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90/File)

With exactly two weeks until election day, a poll released Tuesday showed the Likud and Yesh Atid parties enjoying a boost in support as Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope plunged to below 10 seats in the Knesset for the first time.

The political deadlock was predicted to continue with no bloc gaining a majority in the next Knesset, in line with other recent surveys.

According to the poll released by Channel 13 news, if the election were held today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would win the most Knesset seats with 29, followed by Yair Lapid’s center-left Yesh Atid faction with 20 mandates in the 120-seat Knesset.

Next, with 11 seats, was the Yamina party headed by Naftali Bennett, overtaking rival right-wing New Hope, which dropped to just 9 seats.

The Joint List had 8 seats; United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Betyenu 7 apiece; Shas and Labor, 6 each; the Religious Zionism party, 5; and Blue and White, Meretz and Ra’am were all predicted to win 4 seats, just above the electoral threshold for entry into the Knesset.

According to those results, neither the pro- or anti-Netanyahu camps would have a clear path to forming a majority coalition.

Party leaders ahead of the 2021 elections (from left): Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Gideon Sa’ar, Benny Gantz (Courtesy)

Overall, the poll forecast Netanyahu and his religious allies winning 47 seats, far short of the 61-seat majority needed to form a government.

If both the Islamist Ra’am party and Yamina were to back Netanyahu, that would clinch a majority for the premier with 62 seats, according to the poll. But it would also force him to hinge his coalition on the support of a non-Zionist Arab party — a step which he has repeatedly attacked his rivals for supposedly pursuing, and which likely would not sit well with some of his hard-right partners.

Netanyahu said Tuesday in an interview with Army Radio that he would not sit in a coalition with Ra’am.

Meanwhile, in the poll, the anti-Netanyahu camp had 58 seats.

Assuming the Arab-majority Joint List stays out of any coalition, that the bloc’s constituent parties manage to paper over their major ideological differences, and that Yamina joins in, it could form a coalition of 61, placing Bennett as a potential kingmaker.

Asked if there was a chance that they might change their mind before election day, 75 percent of those voting for pro-Netanyahu parties said they would not and just 25% said yes, while the figures were the opposite for those who said they would vote for parties who have vowed not to join with Netanyahu: 75% said yes and 25% said no.

The poll, which was conducted by well-known Israeli pollster Kamil Fuchs and surveyed 712 respondents, with a margin of error of 3.6%, also asked who voters think should be given a chance to form a government if Netanyahu does not receive majority backing.

For that question, Lapid received 26%, Bennett rated 23% and Sa’ar 20%. Eighteen percent of respondents said they did not know.

Following the election, the president decides which candidate will be tasked with assembling the coalition, based on the recommendations of all political parties.

Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett (L) speaks with Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid in the Knesset plenum, March 11, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a Channel 12 report Tuesday evening, Bennett and Sa’ar, who have refrained from attacking each other in recent weeks, are both set to renew the political pressure on each other with harsh campaigns aimed at siphoning voters from one to the other.

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

The upcoming elections — the fourth in two years — were called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.

The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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