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Poll shows Blue and White failing to enter Knesset, Yamina still power broker

One month before Israel goes to 4th election in 2 years, survey still indicates no clear path to government for either side

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in a January 11, 2021 speech, says he was wrong to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Elad Malka)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in a January 11, 2021 speech, says he was wrong to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Elad Malka)

A poll published Sunday evening indicated that Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party would fail to make into the Knesset after the next elections, while Naftali Bennett’s Yamina continued to hold the balance of power.

The numbers published by Israel’s Kan national broadcaster were based on a weighted aggregate of all current polls, analyzed by the “Hamadad” website. No margin of error was given.

According to the results as of February 21, just over a month before Israel’s 4th election in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would get 30 seats, down from its current 36 seats.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid had 18; Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, 14; Yamina, 12; the Joint List, 9; Shas, 8; United Torah Judaism, 7; Yisrael Betyenu, 7; Labor, 6; Religious Zionism, 5 and Meretz, 4.

Both Blue and White and the Islamist Ra’am, which recently split from the Joint List, failed to cross the election threshold.

The numbers give Likud, the far-right Religious Zionism and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and UTJ,  50 seats.

The so-called anti-Netanyahu bloc — made up of parties whose leaders have said they will not sit in a government with the prime minister — has 58 seats. However, it is unlikely that all these parties, which range from the right-wing to left-wing and Arab parties, could work together.

Parties need to be able to form a coalition of at least 61 seats in the 120 seat Knesset to form a government. Israel has never had a single party with a majority.

Yamina, as an undecided factor, with 12, remains in the king-maker position. Bennett has declared himself a candidate for prime minister, but has not ruled out sitting in a coalition with Likud.

Naftali Bennett visits the Haredi town of Elad, September 6, 2020. (Flash90)

While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the months 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.

Previous surveys have generally predicted political deadlock after the election, with no party having a clear path to assembling a majority coalition.

National elections — the fourth in two years — were called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.

The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s varied success battling the pandemic.

The predictions also carry a remarkable rebuke for Gantz, who was running neck and neck with Netanyahu in the last three elections but lost the faith of the public by backtracking on his vow to never sit with Netanyahu.

Gantz warned on Friday that if his party fails to make it back into the Knesset in next month’s election, Netanyahu will immediately fire the centrist slate’s ministers, remove all remaining checks on his power and turn Israel into a monarchy.

“If I do not cross the electoral threshold needed to enter the Knesset, and there’s a transitional government headed by Netanyahu, the very next day Netanyahu will fire all the Blue and White ministers, appoint [Likud’s Amir] Ohana as justice minister, fire [Attorney General Avichai] Mandelblit, not extend the appointment of [new] state prosecutor Amit Aisman, and turn this place into a monarchy. There will be a fundamental of the structure of the [governing] regime in Israel right in front of our eyes,” an embittered Gantz said during a fiery interview with Channel 12.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on February 8, 2021. Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in three cases and bribery in one of them. (Reuven Kastro/POOL)

Netanyahu has been relentlessly critical of Mandelblit and the state prosecution, claiming they fabricated the three corruption cases for which he is on trial as part of an attempted political coup hatched together with the police, the opposition and the media. Gantz has said repeatedly in recent months that Blue and White’s presence in the outgoing coalition has protected Israeli democracy in the face of concerted efforts by Netanyahu and his supporters to weaken it.

While Gantz campaigned on the promise that he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu so long as the prime minister faces corruption charges, he agreed to do just that in late March 2020, and formed a unity government with Netanyahu in May.

Furious, the Yesh Atid party and a second minor faction, Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem, broke away from Blue and White and went into the opposition. Blue and White has watched its popularity plummet since, leading to a hemorrhaging of lawmakers who have left the party since elections were called.

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