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Poll shows Gideon Sa’ar on 19 seats, Blue and White barely returning to Knesset

TV survey forecasts Likud rebel’s New Hope party would be second largest, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc to fall short of majority

Gideon Sa'ar visits Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on December 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gideon Sa'ar visits Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on December 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A television poll aired Sunday pointed to growing support for former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s new party, eating into the electoral strength of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc.

The Channel 13 news poll also had Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party sliding to just above the minimum threshold needed to enter the Knesset, as it holds last-ditch talks with Netanyahu’s Likud to avert early elections ahead of this week’s budget deadline.

With the addition of fellow Likud rebel MK Yiffat Shasha-Biton to its ranks, Sa’ar’s New Hope was forecast to pick up 19 seats, up from 17 in a survey aired by the network last week, which would make it the second largest faction after Likud, which the poll said would get 28 seats (down from the 36 it currently holds).

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem was predicted to get 16 seats, followed by 14 for the national-religious Yamina party, which surged in the polls until New Hope began chipping away at its strength.

The predominantly Arab Joint List received 11 seats in the survey, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties got seven apiece, as did left-wing Meretz. The right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu would get six seats.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 2, 2020. (Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP)

Blue and White was forecast to get five seats, the lowest of any party that cleared the 3.5 percent threshold in the survey. It won 33 seats in the March elections.

Gantz’s party has continued to shed support in the polls since it formed a unity government with Likud in May, after pledging not to join a coalition led by Netanyahu due to the premier’s indictment on graft charges. The decision by Gantz to form a government with Likud, which Blue and White went head-to-head with in three consecutive inconclusive elections, led Yesh Atid-Telem to break off from the Blue and White alliance.

If Yamina, which was left out of the unity government Likud formed with Blue and White in May, were to rejoin Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing religious parties, which also includes Shas and UTJ, they would together have 56 seats, short of the majority needed to form a coalition in the 120 seat Knesset.

That result for the right-wing bloc was identical to a Channel 12 survey published last week,

Asked who is most fit to be prime minister, Netanyahu’s was named by 32 percent of respondents in the Channel 13 poll, followed by Sa’ar at 15%, Bennett at 12%, Lapid at 12%, and Gantz with 8%.

The combined phone and online survey included 760 respondents and was conducted by pollster Kamil Fuchs. The margin of error was 3.7%.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting at the Knesset with parties in his right-wing bloc on November 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Since Sa’ar announced earlier this month he was leaving Likud to challenge Netanyahu for the country’s leadership, polls have suggested New Hope would shake up the political landscape and introduce several potential paths to coalitions that do not include Netanyahu, while seriously narrowing the premier’s path to leading the next government.

Netanyahu could form a government if Sa’ar’s party were to join him, but the prime minister’s arch-rival claims to have no such plans. Though others have vowed not to sit with Netanyahu in the past only to reverse course, the enmity between the two runs deep.

Sa’ar’s decision to split from Likud came as Israel appears headed toward new elections, with the Knesset set to dissolve if a budget is not passed — or the deadline for approving one isn’t postponed — by Tuesday night.

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