One week out, election poll predicts continued gridlock, Yesh Atid with record seats

Opposition leader Netanyahu and his right-religious allies still just short of majority in TV surveys; parties in outgoing coalition forecast to gain 56 seats

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset session in memory of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) with former premier Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset session in memory of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A week before Israelis head out to cast their votes in the country’s fifth national election in under four years, a new TV poll on Tuesday forecast a record number of Knesset seats for incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, mainly at the expense of its allies Labor and Meretz, with the opposition bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his right-religious alliance still falling just short of a majority — but closer to it than Lapid’s bloc of diverse parties from across the spectrum.

The survey aired by Channel 13 news Tuesday gave Netanyahu’s bloc 60 seats, similar to previous polls over the past week, and still one short of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The same poll showed Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 27 seats, its highest showing in recent surveys, with Labor and Meretz dropping to four seats each, and the parties in Lapid’s outgoing coalition totaling 56 seats. The Arab Hadash-Ta’al list, aligned with neither bloc, had 4 seats.

Netanyahu’s Likud was projected to earn 31 seats as the largest party. The far-right Religious Zionism, which is part of the right-religious bloc, was the third-largest party in the poll with 14 seats. The party — an alliance between former minister Bezalel Smotrich, extremist MK Itamar Ben Gvir and the anti-LGBT Noam faction — has recently shot up in the polls, though Netanyahu’s Likud has made gains at the expense of its partners in the run-up to past elections.

National Unity trailed Religious Zionism in the Channel 13 poll, getting 11 seats. The center-right slate is made up of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and political newcomer Gadi Eisenkot, who like Gantz is a former IDF chief of staff. Gantz has touted himself as a candidate for prime minister, but appears to have slim options for cobbling together a coalition.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, which are also partnered with Netanyahu, have been polling consistently at eight and seven seats respectively, including in the Channel 13 survey.

The right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu had six seats in the poll. The predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al alliance — which isn’t aligned with either bloc — was predicted to get four seats in both polls, as was the Islamist Ra’am, which was part of the previous coalition.

Neither Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s right-wing Jewish Home party nor the Arab nationalist Balad would pick up enough support to enter the next Knesset, according to the poll, though the research showed Shaked’s party could get 2.2% of the vote, a slight increase compared to previous surveys.

The survey was conducted by Professor Camil Fuchs with 801 respondents with a 3.5% margin of error.

Two other TV polls this week pointed to similar results, with the Netanyahu bloc on 60 seats and the outgoing coalition on 56.

In a Channel 12 survey conducted by Midgam institute along with iPanel on Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud party got 32 seats, Lapid’s Yesh Atid 24, Gantz’s National Unity 13, Religious Zionism 13, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 5, Meretz 5, Labor 5, Hadash-Ta’al 4, and Ra’am 4.

The poll predicted that Balad will get 2% of the votes and Shaked’s Jewish Home will get 1.8%, far below the 3.25% electoral threshold. If Shaked drops out — which she has said she will not do — nothing changes in the makeup of Knesset seats, the poll found.

Meanwhile, a separate survey by the Kan public broadcaster predicted on Monday that Likud will get 31 seats, Yesh Atid 24, Religious Zionism 13, National Unity 12, Shas 9, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Meretz 5, Labor 5, Hadash-Ta’al 4, and Ra’am 4.

Balad got 1.8% and Jewish Home got 1.6% of the vote, and would not make it into the Knesset, the Kan poll showed.

Israeli polls are often unreliable, but can have an impact on the decision-making of politicians and voters ahead of elections.

The upcoming election — the fifth since April 2019 — was called after the collapse in June of then-prime minister Naftali Bennett’s power-sharing government with Lapid, which survived for a year after just managing to unseat Netanyahu in June 2021.

Bennett subsequently retired, handing the premiership to Lapid and control of his party to his long-time No. 2 Shaked, who has since distanced herself from the coalition while continuing to serve as interior minister.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, is seeking to regain power as he stands trial on corruption charges, while Lapid looks to retain the premiership after making the jump from journalism to politics a decade ago.

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