Elections 2015

Poll shows most Jewish Israelis against unity government

Rumors continue to emerge about a possible pact between rivals Netanyahu and Herzog, but the idea is not popular

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog (L), with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2013. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog (L), with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2013. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

With reports swirling about the possibility of a national unity government being formed following the March 17 elections, a new poll released Monday indicated that many Israelis are against the idea.

Fifty-three percent of Jewish Israelis oppose the idea of an Isaac Herzog-Benjamin Netanyahu government, with only 23% supporting, according to the Army Radio poll. Twenty-four percent had no preference.

Voters on both sides of the political spectrum oppose the possibility of a national unity government. Sixty-six percent on the right were against, as were 56% on the left.

The outlet did not release the survey methodology.

But a unity government could be in the works, according to a Sunday report in the Israeli business news site Globes.

An anonymous senior Likud official said that his party’s Netanyahu and Labor’s Herzog would rotate the premiership between them, leaving Herzog’s current partner in the Zionist Union, Tzipi Livni, on the outside.

Livni, leader of the Hatnua party, and Herzog currently have a power sharing agreement that would give each two years as prime minister.

The Likud source also said that his party will be part of the government whether it wins the elections or not.

President Reuven Rivlin reportedly said Sunday that he will call on Likud and the Zionist Union to form a national unity government in the event of a result which leaves neither capable of forming a stable coalition.

He would ask the dual-party government to then push through legislation on electoral reform, Rivlin reportedly told a group who visited his residence, to amend the instability inherent in the current system, where larger parties have to court smaller parties in order to cobble together a rickety ruling coalition.

According to Rivlin, as quoted by Channel 2, if the sides cannot come to an agreement regarding social and political issues, then at least legislation can be passed to prevent Israel from “turning into Italy,” where elections are very frequent. The TV report had no direct confirmation of the report from the president’s office.

Netanyahu has reiterated that he will not sit in a unity government with Herzog and Livni, due to “deep ideological differences.”

Most current election polls show the Zionist Union almost even with Likud, in what analysts predict will be a tight race.

Israelis head to the ballot boxes on March 17.

Following the elections, the president taps the party of his choosing to try to assemble a coalition, based on the recommendations of the heads of the various parties.

Rivlin has said that he will confer the right to form a government on the leader with the best chances of assembling a coalition government, and not necessarily the party with the greatest number of seats.

Such a prospective outcome is not without precedent.

Even though the centrist Kadima party under Tzipi Livni won 28 seats in the 2009 elections, it was Netanyahu, with 27, who became prime minister, because he could rely on the support of Yisrael Beytenu and other right-wing parties.

Avi Lewis contributed to this report. 

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