Meretz fails to enter the Knesset in TV poll; Netanyahu still short of majority

A second survey has left-wing party squeezing past minimum electoral threshold if March 23 elections were held today

Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz and supporters of his left-wing party protest against the government's decision to keep schools closed, outside the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv, February 9, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz and supporters of his left-wing party protest against the government's decision to keep schools closed, outside the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv, February 9, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A new television poll aired Tuesday predicted Meretz would fail to clear the minimum electoral threshold, but even such a failure would leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and its potential allied factions short of a ruling majority.

Likud would pick up 28 seats if the March 23 elections were held today, according to the Channel 12 News poll, making it the largest party in the Knesset. Likud, which currently has 36 seats, was also forecast to get 28 seats in a survey released by the network last week.

Trailing Likud was Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party with 19 seats, up 1 from last week’s poll. The right-wing New Hope and Yamina parties got 14 and 12 seats respectively, with both parties gaining a seat since last week.

The predominantly Arab Joint List received 9 seats in the survey, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party got 8 seats and fellow Haredi party United Torah Judaism received 6.

The right-wing, secularist Yisrael Beytenu had 7 seats, as did the center-left Labor Party.

Rounding out the poll were the hard-right Religious Zionism Party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, with 5 each.

Meretz, which got 4 seats in last week’s poll, would not receive enough votes to enter the Knesset, according to the survey.

“I turn to all Meretz supporters in Labor and Yesh Atid — come back to us,” Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz said in an interview with the network after the poll was released.

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

All together, Netanyahu’s bloc — which includes Likud, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionism — had 47 seats in the poll. If Yamina were to align with the parties, they would have 59 seats, still short of the 61 seats needed for a majority.

Parties opposed to the premier had 61 seats between them, but they remain divided by deep ideological differences and no faction head appeared to have a clear path to forming a government.

A separate poll broadcast Tuesday by Channel 13 News gave Likud 27 seats and Yesh Atid 19, while New Hope and Yamina each received 11.

The Joint List got 8 seats in the survey and Shas, UTJ and Yisrael Beytenu all picked up 7. Labor was forecast to receive 6 seats and Religious Zionism 5.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg (R) and Jida Renawi Zoabi, a candidate for the left-wing party in the upcoming elections, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 4, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Meretz squeezed past the electoral threshold, receiving 4 seats in the poll. Blue and White and the Islamist Ra’am party also got 4 seats apiece.

Netanyahu’s bloc had 46 seats in the survey without Yamina and 57 with it (and potential support from Ra’am could push it over the top to 61), while anti-Netanyahu factions were short of a majority with 59 seats.

The Channel 12 survey was conducted by pollster Manu Geva among 506 respondents, with a 4.4% margin of error. The Channel 13 poll was done by Kamil Fuchs and included 705 respondents. The margin of error was 3.8%.

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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