An alliance of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu parties would defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud if fresh elections were to be held, according to a poll released Saturday.
The survey, which was commissioned by Hadashot TV news, put a joint Yesh Atid-Kulanu list at 29 seats and Likud at 25, down from its current 30.
Kahlon told the news station in response to the poll results that Kulanu had no plans for such an alliance and will run alone in next elections.
Kahlon, whose 10-seat Kulanu is crucial to the coalition’s majority, has faced pressure to quit the government over corruption allegations against Netanyahu, a move that would bring down the government and likely herald new elections. He has rejected calls to resign, telling Hadashot news Saturday that he isn’t a “dismantlement contractor.”
He did say, however, he has “no doubt” Netanyahu would need to resign if indicted.
The premier is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000. In the first, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.
According to the poll Saturday, without an alliance with Kulanu, Yesh Atid would come second in elections with 24 mandates, one behind Likud at 25.
Lapid’s centrist party, which currently has 11 Knesset seats, has polled strongly over the past year and a half, with most surveys putting it neck-and-neck with Likud.
Following Likud and Yesh Atid, the Zionist Union would finish third with sixteen seats (down from 24), followed by the Joint (Arab) List at 12 (down from 13), Jewish Home at 11 (up from 8), Kulanu, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu at 7 (now at 10, 6 and 6 respectively), and Shas at 6 (down from 7). Meretz, meanwhile, would retain the 5 seats it now has.
The Zionist Union, an alliance of the Labor and Hatnuah parties, saw a pickup in polls following Avi Gabbay’s election as Labor head in July, briefly shooting up to second place. It has since fallen back to third place.
Asked to choose between Netanyahu and Lapid for prime minister, 35 percent of respondents said they prefer Netanyahu, while 23% said Lapid. Another 42% said neither.
In a Netanyahu versus Gabbay matchup, 33% said they prefer Netanyahu and only 15% said Gabbay; 52% said neither one.
The poll, which was made up of 504 respondents and had a margin of error of 4.5%, was conducted for Hadashot news on the January 10-11.
Although Netanyahu remains the favorite among potential candidates for prime minister, a survey last month said most of the public believes he should resign if indicted in the investigations.
Earlier this week, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan hinted that police were wrapping up their investigations into Netanyahu, and that police would make their indictment recommendations in the coming weeks.
Netanyahu, who has denied wrongdoing in both cases, has himself indicated he does not intend to step down regardless of police recommendations.
In addition to the ongoing investigations, this week’s poll also came after Hadashot TV news aired recordings of Netanyahu’s son Yair during a night out with friends at Tel Aviv strip clubs, during which he was accompanied by a state-funded guard.
In the tapes, Yair Netanyahu can be heard making disparaging comments on women and also trying to parlay, apparently in jest, a controversial gas deal worth billions of dollars to get cash for strippers from the son of gas tycoon Kobi Maimon.
Yair Netanyahu apologized for the recordings, while Netanyahu said he taught his children to “respect every woman.” Both have strongly criticized the release of the tapes, however, and the Netanyahu family said in response to the report that the recordings were part of a “witch hunt” meant to undermine the prime minister.