Poll finds Netanyahu’s Likud party surging amid early election talk

Internet survey gives ruling faction 36 seats, up six from its current standing, with Yesh Atid trailing in second with 18 spots in parliament

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a piece of fruit as he attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem September 5, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would win 36 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, six more than the ruling party currently holds, according to a poll published Wednesday by Keshet TV.

The result inches the Likud towards a target laid down last week by Netanyahu for the party to win 40 out of the 120 parliamentary seats in the next elections. The last time Likud won at least 40 seats was 1988.

Most polls have shown the party maintaining power, and even gaining, despite corruption investigations against Netanyahu.

Elections are currently slated for fall 2019, though many analysts believe Netanyahu will call a snap poll sometime before then.

Following Likud in the survey was the Yesh Atid party, with 18 seats, up from its current 11. The opposition Zionist Union, the Joint (Arab) List and the Jewish Home party would each receive 11 seats, the results found.

At the bottom of the list was the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, with only four seats, down from its current seven, and barely squeaking into parliament

The Zionist Union, which leads the opposition, currently holds 24 seats, the Joint (Arab) List has 13, and Jewish Home has eight parliamentary seats.

The poll also found that 16% think former Likud Minister Gideon Sa’ar is best suited to replace Netanyahu as head of the party. However, 33% said they did not know who should replace Netanyahu.

Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a Likud party conference in Lod, on December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Sa’ar resigned from the Knesset and politics in October 2014, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, and then announced his comeback in April 2017.

The internet poll of pre-selected panelists, conducted by Panels Politics and Panel4All, surveyed 538 Israeli adults representing both the Jewish and Arab populations.

In August, a similar Panel4All poll published by the Hebrew-media Walla website gave the Likud 33 seats with Yesh Atid scoring 20 spots.

On Monday Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked warned that Likud gains could endanger the right-wing in Israel if it stole votes from her pro-settler Jewish Home party.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at a conference of Hadashot News in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shaked said she was concerned that a stronger Netanyahu would feel free to pick a coalition party from the center or the left.

“If Netanyahu wants 40 seats, that means there will be a left-wing government,” she said at a conference in Jerusalem organized by Hadashot TV news. “Last time Likud had 40 seats we got the disengagement [from Gaza].”

At the end of 2004, after failing to gain majority support from his own party which had 38 seats, then-prime minister and Likud leader Ariel Sharon formed a coalition with the Labor Party to push through his “disengagement plan” to remove all Jewish settlements from the Gaza strip.

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay said earlier Monday that there was no chance his party would sit in a coalition with Netanyahu, while Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid scoffed at the idea that Likud would win 40 seats in the next elections.

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