Poll: Hypothetical party led by Gantz would surpass Zionist Union in elections

PM’s Likud continues to hold significant gap over rivals in new survey, but if former IDF chief enters race independently, he may sap votes from all major parties and win 12 seats

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz speaks at the annual World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem on November 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz speaks at the annual World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem on November 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A new Hadashot TV news poll shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintaining a strong lead over his political rivals and current coalition partners if elections were held today. Meanwhile, presumptive candidate former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has a strong showing — should he enter the fray with a new party — winning more seats than the Avi Gabbay-led Zionist Union.

According to the poll, when only taking into account parties currently in the running, Netanyahu’s Likud party would win 32 seats, an increase of two seats from its current 30.

In second place after Likud is Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party with 18 seats, followed by the center-left Zionist Union faction and Joint (Arab) List, at 12 seats apiece. (Zionist Union, which is comprised of Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, has 24 seats in the current Knesset, and was polling at around 21 seats a year ago.)

The pro-settlement Jewish Home party would win 10 seats, according to the poll, while the center-right Kulanu and ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism would each receive 7 seats.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on October 7, 2018 (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL Yedioth Ahronoth)

Next in the survey was the left-wing Meretz party with 6 seats, the same tally that an as-yet-to-be-named party headed by independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis would get.

Wrapping up the poll were the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox Shas, which would each pick up 5 seats.

But if Gantz were to run in elections with his own political party, Likud would win 29 seats, Yesh Atid would drop to 13 and Zionist Union to 10, while Gantz’s hypothetical party would garner 12, according to the survey.

Speculation over Gantz’s political future has swirled this year with the expiration of his legally required “cooling off” period, under which former top security officials must wait three years after retiring before entering politics. Gantz, 59, left the military in 2015 after a four-year stint as head of the Israel Defense Forces that saw him command the 2014 Gaza war.

Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid at a plenary session at the Knesset on September 17, 2018. (Flash90)

Though Gantz has yet to formally announce his entry to politics, reports have indicated he has decided to do so and will probably set up his own party rather than join an existing center-left or centrist faction.

Most polls in recent months have shown the prime minister’s 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 before then.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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