Poll shows Religious Zionism party would soar if headed by Ben-Gvir

Party would win 13 seats, compared to 10 under Smotrich, Channel 13 poll finds, in good news for far-right MK, who has been seeking a bigger slice in combined list negotiations

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir, left, speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022; MK Bezalel Smotrich, right, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Itamar Ben Gvir, left, speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022; MK Bezalel Smotrich, right, leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Channel 13 poll released on Sunday indicated that if far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir takes the helm of the Religious Zionism party from current leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, the party would win 13 seats in the coming election, compared to a predicted 10 under Smotrich.

The extra three seats would shuffle the political map and give Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu 60 seats in his right-wing religious bloc of parties — still one short of a majority, the poll showed.

However, the extra seats for Religious Zionism would come at the expense of Likud votes, with the poll saying Netanyahu’s party would win 52 seats compared to 54-56 in previous polls.

With Smotrich predicted to bring in 10 seats, Netanyahu would have 59 seats in his bloc, according to the poll, shy of the 61 he would need to form a government. Netanyahu’s Likud would get 34 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 22, Blue and White/New Hope 12, Religious Zionism 10, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 7, the Joint List 6, Labor 6, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Meretz 5 and Ra’am 4.

The Yamina party, now led by Ayelet Shaked, was not predicted to cross the electoral threshold for entry into the Knesset, no matter who was heading Religious Zionism.

The Religious Zionism party headed by Smotrich partnered with Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit faction, along with the anti-LGBT party Noam, to gain six seats and enter parliament in 2021.

While the ideological compatriots/rivals are expected to partner again for the November 1 elections, this latest poll will come as good news for Ben Gvir, who has been seeking a bigger slice of the nationalist pie.

Far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir seen during a plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a press conference last week, Ben Gvir, a far-right firebrand and noted provocateur, urged Smotrich to hold independent research to determine how many slots each party should get in a united slate and their placement.

Smotrich has since responded by inviting Ben Gvir to join the Religious Zionism primaries, rather than unite after the primaries are held.

With both Ben Gvir and Smotrich confident about their base and their prospects of crossing the threshold required to enter the Knesset even if they were to run separately, the negotiations are shaping up to be more challenging than before.

After Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz announced last week that he plans to step down as party leader ahead of the upcoming elections, the poll showed that headed by former Meretz chair Zahava Galon, the party would receive five seats, compared to the six it currently has.

Zehava Galon at a rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv on May 27, 2017. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

However, if MK Yair Golan were to win the party primaries, the poll estimated that Meretz would receive only four seats, nearing the electoral threshold.

When asked who they consider to be the person most fit to serve as premier, 45% of respondents said Netanyahu was more suitable, while 32% expressed support for Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Israeli TV polls are notably unreliable, but nevertheless often steer the decision-making of politicians. Sunday’s poll, conducted by Prof. Camille Fox, sampled 703 respondents with a margin of error of 3.8%.

A poll conducted earlier this month by Panels Politics for the Maariv newspaper suggested that with 10 seats for the Religious Zionism party under Smotrich, the Netanyahu-led bloc would receive 61 seats. That poll predicted the Likud party would nab 36 seats in the November 1 election.

The Times of Israel’s weekly poll of polls, computing major opinion polls in the past week, published on Sunday, gave Religious Zionism 9.8 seats.

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