With less than three weeks to go before election day, there is no end in sight for Israel’s political gridlock, with a new poll Thursday showing voting preferences virtually unchanged.
The poll, commissioned by Channel 12 news, showed centrist Blue and White retaining a slight edge over Likud, with 35 and 33 seats for the two parties, respectively.
The Arab-majority Joint List got 13, the same as in the current Knesset; the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz got nine seats; ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism each got eight; and secular nationalist Yisrael Beytenu dropped slightly to seven — the same as right-wing Yamina.
The extremist Otzma Yehudit party failed to clear the 3.25 percent threshold for entering the 120-member Knesset, garnering just 2.2% of the vote.
The upshot: The results show the same deadlock that has forced Israel into an unprecedented three consecutive elections within 11 months, after the April and September elections failed to deliver a decisive victor.
The bloc of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds 56 seats in the poll, five short of a 61-seat majority.
Yisrael Beytenu, which has played the spoiler for Netanyahu in the last two races, continues to hold the seven seats the outgoing premier needs to ensure he’s also the incoming premier.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, meanwhile, can only rely on some 44 seats from his own faction and the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz. Only part of the Joint List backed him for prime minister in the last election and Gantz himself has ruled out forming a government with the majority-Arab slate.
The poll also proposed a hypothetical situation in which Netanyahu and Gantz were forced into a unity government where they took turns in the prime minister’s chair. It told voters to assume that the candidate they disliked was first in the rotation and asked: Would you rather have a fourth election?
One-quarter of Israelis would favor a fourth election rather than letting Netanyahu go first. Another 50% would prefer to avoid another vote, while 25% said they didn’t know.
The figures were similar with Gantz first in the rotation: 27% would prefer yet another election, 52% would settle for the rotation government, 21% don’t know.
Finally, the poll asked who Israelis felt was a better fit for the prime minister’s post. Netanyahu won the confidence of 42% of Israelis, Gantz got 36%.
The poll was conducted Thursday by pollster Mano Geva. It has a 4.4% margin of error.