Poll sees extremist Otzma Yehudit enter Knesset, Blue and White overtake Likud

Anti-Arab party’s entry into parliament, survey suggests, would increase Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition to 58 seats, still short of 61-seat majority

Itamar Ben Gvir, chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, speaks at the Central Election Committee in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on August 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Itamar Ben Gvir, chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, speaks at the Central Election Committee in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on August 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An opinion poll published eight days before the elections sees the extremist Otzma Yehudit party entering the next Knesset with four seats — the third poll in recent days predicting such a result.

The results of the poll, published by the Walla news site, do not augur well for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite the boost to the right, since he still lacks a 61-seat majority of right-wing parties without Yisrael Beytenu, with the premier and his allies garnering just 58 seats in the survey.

Polls by the Israel Hayom newspaper and the Knesset Channel in recent days also saw Otzma Yehudit passing the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent, entering the legislature with four seats.

In previous polling, the far-right party had been seen as close to the threshold but still short of passing it.

Monday’s poll, conducted by the Midgam polling firm, gave centrist Blue and White 33 seats in the 22nd Knesset, two more than a poll last week by the firm, and one ahead of Likud’s 32.

As Walla noted, the slight bump, which is still within the margin of error but reflects a similar trend in other polls, comes amid the party’s new secularist campaign, which called for a secular unity coalition with Likud that would upend ultra-Orthodox control over religious policies.

Yisrael Beytenu, the secularist Russian-speaking party whose leader Avigdor Liberman’s spat with Haredi parties torpedoed the establishment of a right-wing coalition in May, lost a seat in the latest poll, dropping from 9 last week to 8 this week.

Liberman has also said he plans to force a unity government following the elections, bringing together Likud and Blue and White and keeping religious parties out of the coalition.

Monday’s poll otherwise offered the same electoral map that nearly every other poll for a month has shown: right-wing Yamina gets 9, ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas get 7 and 6 respectively, left-wing Democratic Camp takes 6, the Arab Joint List gets 9 and Labor-Gesher gets 6.

Walla’s poll asked respondents what they thought of Blue and White’s backing for a secularist national unity government, and the results explain Gantz’s own sudden enthusiasm for the idea. Almost half, 49%, supported it, while 39% opposed. Among self-identified centrist and leftist voters, Blue and White’s base of support, support was at 70% with just 19% opposed. It even attracted not-insignificant parts of the self-identified right, where 40% expressed support — though a majority, 52%, said they opposed the idea.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz attends the Srugim conference in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The poll was conducted among 501 respondents to a combined internet and telephone poll, representing the Israeli public’s demographics, with a margin of error of 4.4%.

Last week, Likud urged right-wing voters to avoid Otzma Yehudit, saying it would not make it past the electoral threshold and would thus “waste” right-wing votes.

Likud and Blue and White have been mostly polling neck and neck. In a bid to ensure it leads Blue and White, the ruling party has urged voters for right-wing parties to abandon their factions in favor of Likud, and returned to its controversial scare tactics targeting the Arab public, often warning that its rivals plan to form a government with the Arab parties (Blue and White has ruled out any coalition with non-Zionist parties, and no Arab party has ever sat in a ruling coalition).

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked last week urged Otzma Yehudit to withdraw from the race. “Otzma Yehudit won’t clear the electoral threshold and its two seats will move over to the left,” the former justice minister told Israel Radio.

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