Poll finds Zehut’s exit from election won’t help Netanyahu form coalition

Likud and rival Blue and White remain neck-and-neck, neither right nor center-left blocs predicted to have majority without Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, right, and Zehut party chairman Moshe Feiglin hold joint press conference at Kfar Hamacabiah in Ramat Gan, August 29, 2019. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, right, and Zehut party chairman Moshe Feiglin hold joint press conference at Kfar Hamacabiah in Ramat Gan, August 29, 2019. (Flash90)

The exit of the far-right Zehut Party from coming elections, as engineered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will not help his chances of forming a majority coalition, according to a poll published Thursday night by Channel 12 TV news.

The television survey, conducted before Zehut pulled out, found that whether or not the party ran in the election, the remaining parties would each win the same number of seats.

Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin announced Thursday that his party will drop out of the running in exchange for a promise from Likud of a ministerial post and the liberalization of the medical marijuana market.

Netanyahu has been putting intense pressure on several small right-wing factions to pull out of the election in September so that their votes don’t get “wasted” if they fail to clear the 3.25-percent threshold for entering the Knesset.

However, even without Zehut running in the September 17 election the political map was predicted to remain the same with neither a Netanyahu right-wing bloc nor a rival center-left bloc having a clear path to form a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. The results were almost unchanged from a poll last week by the channel, with only a single seat difference for some parties, but no change in the two major blocs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin at a joint press conference at Kfar Maccabia in Ramat Gan announcing Zehut’s withdrawal from the September elections, on August 29, 2019. (Flash90)

The Channel 12 survey was conducted by the Midgam polling agency and was made up of 502 respondents contacted via telephone or online. It had a 4.4% margin of error and was carried out on Wednesday, a day before Zehut ended its campaign.

The poll gave Likud 31 seats and its main rival Blue and White, led by MK Benny Gantz, 30 seats.

Three parties polled 10 seats: Yemina, an alliance of right-wing nationalist parties, the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, and MK Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties were next largest with eight and seven seats respectively.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks to reporters near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz, after yeshiva student Dvir Sorek was killed in a terror attack, on August 8, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The Labor-Gesher alliance and the Democratic Camp, both left-wing parties, were predicted to win seven seats each.

Zehut, with the support of just 1.2% of those who participated in the survey, did not pass the Knesset threshold. Extreme right-wing party Otzmah Yehudit, likewise did not pass the threshold with just 1.8%.

Asked how they would vote if Zehut was not in the running, the poll participants returned identical results for each of the parties.

Overall, a right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu would have 41 seats in the Knesset. With the addition of the two ultra-Orthodox parties — Netanyahu’s usual coalition partners — the bloc would have 56 seats.

A center-left bloc helmed by Blue and White’s Gantz would muster 44 seats, and with the addition of the Joint List, have a total of 54 seats. However, Gantz has already declared he will not form a coalition with the Arab parties.

The results showed that Liberman, and his predicted ten seats, would hold the balance of power to give either bloc a majority.

After previous elections in April, secular Liberman, refused to join a Netanyahu-led coalition due to an impasse with ultra-Orthodox parties.

Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cultural event in the central town of Shoham on August 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud accused Liberman of deliberately foiling Netanyahu’s efforts for his own political gain souring the relationship. Yisrael Beytenu, which won just five seats in that election has consistently been predicted by polls to roughly double its success in the coming vote.

The Channel 12 survey also found that Netanyahu is still far and away the most popular candidate to lead the country with 43% supporting him compared to just 29% for Gantz.

As with Zehut, Netanyahu or his political representatives have also met over the past two weeks with candidates from the extremist Otzma Yehudit and Noam parties to try to convince them to end their campaigns.

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