A television survey on Monday predicted the predominantly Arab Joint List would hold the balance of power on forming a coalition if elections were held today, with neither the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox opposition bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu nor the current governing alliance able to establish a government without its backing.
According to the Channel 13 poll, Netanyahu’s Likud would win 36 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, far ahead of the second-largest party, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which would pick up 20 seats. Merav Michaeli’s Labor would become the third-largest party, with 10 seats, followed by the Joint List with eight.
According to the projection, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism would each score seven seats; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and its former ally-turned-rival Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, would each win six; Nitzan Horowitz’s Meretz would hold five seats, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Ra’am party would have four each.
The survey predicted that Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope would fail to clear the electoral threshold, after picking up just 2.6 percent of the vote. The right-wing coalition party composed mostly of former Likud members currently has six seats.
The survey result indicates the parties in the current diverse coalition led by Bennett and Lapid would have 56 seats — tied with the Netanyahu-led bloc, with both five seats short of forming a government. The Joint List would therefore be the kingmaker in such a scenario.
The poll comes ahead of the final votes on the state budget, expected later this week. If the budget is not approved, the government automatically dissolves.
Respondents in the poll were asked whether they would like to see the government continue. Just over half (51%) said yes, 40% said they want new elections, and 9% said they don’t know.
Nearly two-thirds (62%) said Bennett should honor his premiership rotation agreement with Lapid and hand over the reins of power in the summer of 2023, as agreed. Another 23% backed breaking up the government at that point, and 15% said they don’t know.
Recent leaks quote Bennett and his inner circle estimating that the government could collapse before the rotation deal is honored.
Bennett and Lapid were neck and neck among the respondents, in terms of who was better suited to be leader (23% for Bennett, 22% for Lapid) when pitted against each other, though the same amount, 45%, said neither.
The poll also examined whether voters want the ultra-Orthodox parties, currently in the opposition, to join the government if the budget is passed. It found that 63% were opposed and 20% backed it. Among Shas and United Torah Judaism voters, however, nearly half (48%) supported the Haredi parties joining the government, while 34% were against it.
The survey conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points. The number of participants was not immediately clear.
The final votes on the budget are scheduled for Thursday, although the coalition has until November 14 to get the law through. The coalition has a razor-thin majority and the opposition of a single government lawmaker could theoretically torpedo it. The last time an Israeli government managed to pass a budget was in March 2018. Failure to approve the budget late last year was what brought down the previous government. Israel has had four election cycles since April 2019.