Poll: Coalition slumps 9 seats, losing majority amid unrest over judicial overhaul

Survey finds Yesh Atid would become largest party in Knesset if another election was held, indicating broad discontent with government’s agenda, but no new vote is in the offing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition would drop nine seats and lose its majority in the Knesset if a new election was called, a poll released Friday said, as opinion surveys continued to indicate that the government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary was costing it support among swaths of the public.

The Maariv news site’s survey found that the coalition would fall from its current 64 seats to 55, while the opposition would climb from 56 to 64 seats, if new elections were held.

The rise in support for opposition parties does not mean that the current minority bloc would be able to form a majority coalition if elections were held though, due to disputes between the different parties.

There is no expectation of new elections, since Netanyahu’s bloc of right, far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties won a decisive 64-56 victory over opposing parties in the November 1, 2022 election.

Were Israel voting again, the poll indicated that former prime minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party would become the Knesset’s largest party at 27 seats, eclipsing Netanyahu’s Likud, which would fall from 31 to 26 seats.

The largest beneficiary of the coalition’s fall would be Benny Gantz’s National Unity party, which would climb from 12 to 19 seats, becoming the third largest party in the Knesset.

The opposition’s secular, right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party would fall from six to five seats, the left-leaning Labor party would climb from four to five, and the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al party would remain at five seats.

The Islamist Ra’am party, which currently has five seats, would fail to cross the 3.25 percent electoral threshold needed to win Knesset representation, while the left-wing Meretz party would win four seats after failing to make it into the Knesset in the last election.

For coalition parties, the Religious Zionism alliance of far-right factions would drop from 14 to 12 seats, with seven of those belonging to the extremist Otzma Yehudit and five to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s slate.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas would drop one seat to ten and its Ashkenazi Haredi counterpart, United Torah Judaism, would remain at seven seats.

Responses to the poll’s questions also highlighted the extent of the public’s polarization over the contentious judicial overhaul being advanced by the government.

Forty-three percent said the coalition must stop advancing the legislation to weaken the High Court of Justice as a condition for negotiations to reach a compromise. Forty-two percent responded that such talks could take place even as the coalition’s legislative efforts move forward.

Sixty-seven percent of the Maariv poll respondents said they expected the country’s social divide to worsen as a result of the government’s efforts, 24% said divisions would decrease and 9% weren’t sure.

The online poll was conducted based on a representative sample of Israeli Jews and Arabs and had a 4.3% margin of error.

Israelis protest against government plans to overhaul the judicial system outside the Knesset, with the Bank of Israel headquarters seen in the background, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

A separate poll published Friday by Channel 12 found that 60% of the public believes the judicial overhaul plans do not represent the will of the people, compared to 32% who said they do.

And while Likud insists that its voters were aware of its plans for the legal shakeup when they went to the polls, the Channel 12 survey found that just over half of the party’s voters said they were not aware, compared to 36% who said they were.

Asked whether they supported the government’s plans overall, 55% of respondents said they did not, 33% said they did and 14% weren’t sure.

The previous Channel 12 survey in January found that 39% of the public opposed the overhaul, 29% supported it and 32% were unsure.

Among Likud voters, 52% were worried the judicial overhaul would harm the economy, 43% were not concerned and 7% weren’t sure.

Asked to identify the most important issue that the government should be addressing, 45% said lowering the cost of living, 19% said unifying societal rifts, 17% said addressing the security escalation and 8% said passing judicial reform.

A survey released earlier this week by the Israel Democracy Institute found that a majority of Israelis oppose the government’s push to subvert the judiciary, including a substantial minority of voters who supported coalition parties.

Another poll released earlier this month found that over 60% of the public wanted the government to halt or delay its effort to restructure the judiciary.

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