Poll: Likud catches up to Blue and White, Netanyahu still favored for PM

Nearly two-thirds fault PM on his handling of Gaza violence; 46% see Trump recognition of Golan Heights sovereignty as election interference

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Likud party drew level with its main competitor, the Blue and White party, in an election prediction poll published Thursday, while two controversial smaller parties continued to clear the electoral threshold for entry into the Knesset by a clear margin.

If elections were held today, Likud would win 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, with Blue and White taking an equal number, according to the Channel 13 poll.

A previous poll by the television station at the beginning of the week gave Blue and White 31 seats and Likud 28.

Aside from a rare exception earlier this month, Blue and White has consistently been ahead of Likud in polls conducted by various media outlets since the party was formed in February.

The online poll also asked respondents who they believe is more suited to serve as premier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu, with 51%, was well clear of Gantz, who was supported by just 36%. The previous Channel 13 poll gave Netanyahu 45% and Gantz 38%. The remainder responded that they don’t know who is better suited to lead the next government.

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, speaks during a party meeting in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Thursday poll predicted the Labor Party will win 10 seats, followed by the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (7), Zehut (7), the Union of Right-Wing Parties (7) and Hadash-Ta’al, an Arab Israeli party, also with 7 seats.

The quasi-libertarian Zehut, led by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, has gained much of its popularity by campaigning for the legalization of cannabis use, but has strong right-wing views on other issues, in particular regarding the Palestinians.

The URWP, an alliance of three right-wing parties, includes the extremist Otzma Yehudit party. Seventh on the URWP slate is attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, who has made a practice of defending Jewish Israelis accused of terrorist attacks against Arabs.

Further down in the poll results were the New Right party (5), Meretz (5), Kulanu (4), the ultra-Orthodox Shas party (4) and another Arab Israeli party, Ra’am-Balad, with 4 seats.

Former defense minister MK Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party was predicted to not beat the Knesset threshold of 3.25% — equal to four seats — and neither was the centrist Gesher, a new party formed by independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis.

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin attends a party conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)

Overall, the poll gave the center-left bloc, including Arab-Israeli parties, 56 seats in total, while the right-wing bloc, led by Likud, had 64, one seat up from the previous poll. The results continued a trend in which Netanyahu is predicted to have the best chance at forming a majority coalition in the Knesset after April 9 elections.

While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the weeks leading up to elections and are not seen as overly reliable, taken together, the surveys can often serve as a general gauge of the political climate and where the vote may be headed.

Channel 12 also probed public opinion of how Israel has fared in this week’s spike in violence with the Gaza Strip, which saw Palestinian terror groups fire dozens of rockets into Israel, drawing airstrikes in response.

After a rocket leveled a house in central Israel on Monday, Israel responded by bombing Hamas terror group targets in Gaza. Over the next day and a half, Palestinians fired rockets back at Israel, which again pounded terror targets across Gaza in response. The violence has since been confined to clashes on the Israel-Gaza border, but with Palestinians planning mass protests along the boundary on Saturday, tension remain high.

Asked who can really claim victory in the last round of fighting, 28% gave the upper hand to Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel and has been the de facto ruler of Gaza since seizing control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Only 15% said Israel was victorious, while 43% responded that neither side came out on top. Five percent called it a draw and 9% were undecided.

Continuing the trend of doubts over Israel’s handling of the situation, the poll asked if Netanyahu’s policy for dealing with Hamas is the right one to take. Nearly two-thirds, 61%, said no, as opposed to just 22% who said yes.

Fire and smoke around buildings in Gaza City during reported Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

The poll also examined opinion of the recent US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation of recognition Monday as Netanyahu stood by his side in the White House.

Channel 12 asked if Trump’s move, touted by Netanyahu as a major achievement, constituted interference in the Israeli elections. Forty-six percent said it was interference, 39% said it wasn’t and 15% said they didn’t know. Just over half, 51%, said the recognition would help Israel’s standing in the international community, 34% said it would not contribute, and 15% were undecided.

Thursday’s poll was conducted by Camille Fuchs and sampled 801 Israelis, 601 Jews and 200 non-Jews, with a margin of error of 3.6%. Among the Jewish respondents the poll was carried out by Midgam Project Web Panel and among non-Jews by Stat Research Institute-Net.

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