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Poll: Closing the gap, Bennett’s Yamina trails Netanyahu’s Likud by just 3 seats

Survey shows PM’s party slipping from 41 seats in May polls to 26 today; plurality believe government should be dissolved, elections called

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and then-Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, August 30, 2016. (Abir Sultan/Pool/via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and then-Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, August 30, 2016. (Abir Sultan/Pool/via AP)

A television opinion poll on Tuesday indicated the opposition right-wing Yamina party is closing the gap with the ruling Likud party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If elections were held today, Likud would pick up 26 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while Naftali Bennett’s Yamina would win 23, the Channel 12 survey said. In March’s elections, Likud won 36 seats, and Yamina just six.

No elections are currently set to take place, but speculation is rampant that an early vote will be called sometime in the next several months, as bad blood between Netanyahu and his Blue and White partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz continues to brew, in the shadow of a budget deadline at the end of the year that could automatically fell the government.

In response to the poll, Likud said in a statement: “Everyone knows how it will end. We’re used to the left-wing media propping up Bennett to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu and Likud. It won’t work this time either.”

The Channel 12 survey also found that a plurality of respondents — 49% — say the government should be dissolved and early elections — which would be the fourth national vote since April 2019 — should be called. Just 30% said the government should continue operating and 21% said they don’t know. Broken down by political leanings, 58% of center-left voters, and 45% of right-wing voters, said elections should be called as soon as possible.

Protestors block a road as they rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside his official residence in Jerusalem on September 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yamina has been steadily making gains as a protest movement against Netanyahu’s corruption charges has gained steam and as the country has floundered in efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, polls projected 41 seats for Likud, and just seven for Yamina, with the gap narrowing steadily ever since. Bennett has pounded the prime minister for the government’s purported mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, while presenting himself as a viable right-wing alternative.

According to the Channel 12 poll, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which had been hovering around 20 seats, would snag 18 seats. The survey had the Joint List steady at 15 seats, Blue and White tied with Shas for 9 seats. Yisrael Beytenu (8), UTJ (7) and Meretz (5), rounded out the list of parties that would enter the Knesset.

Four parties failed to clear the electoral threshold, the survey said: Labor, Gesher, Derech Eretz and Jewish Home.

The right-wing / ultra-Orthodox bloc would win 65 seats in all, compared to 55 for the center, left and Arab parties and Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing, anti-Netanyahu Yisrael Beytenu.

The survey also found that the vast majority of respondents, 76%, think Netanyahu should fire Likud Minister Gila Gamliel, after being told that Gamliel broke virus rules and traveled to her in-laws’ apartment in northern Israel over Yom Kippur and misled Health Ministry contact tracers on her whereabouts.

Gila Gamliel speaks at a conference in Kedem, in the West Bank, on September 5, 2019 (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

Netanyahu has said he will await authorities’ final conclusions before taking any action against Gamliel.

The survey commissioned by Channel 12 was conducted by the Midgam institute among 503 respondents on Tuesday. The combined internet and phone poll had a margin of error of 4.4%.

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