September electionsLiberman still kingmaker in both scenarios

Poll shows separate unions of small right, left-wing parties each surging

But neither scenario would end coalition deadlock, with potential 19-seat mega-mergers draining support from larger Likud and Blue and White factions

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Top row L-R: Michael Ben Ari, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich.
Middle row L-R: Moshe Feiglin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett.
Bottom row L-R: Ayelet Shaked, Baruch Marzel, Rafi Peretz. (Flash90)
Top row L-R: Michael Ben Ari, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich. Middle row L-R: Moshe Feiglin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett. Bottom row L-R: Ayelet Shaked, Baruch Marzel, Rafi Peretz. (Flash90)

Super-unions of all the small right-wing parties and, separately, three left-wing factions, would each garner close to 19 seats if elections were held today, a poll published Friday morning showed, while still giving Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu the balance of power in both scenarios.

According to the poll conducted by Magar Mochot for the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom’s weekend edition, if elections were held today with neither the right or left-wing parties having formed unions, the Likud party would win the most seats, 31, but would still be unable to form a coalition without Liberman.

Blue and White would follow closely behind with 30 seats, with a united Arab List in third with nine. The Union of Right Wing Parties and Labor, now headed by Amir Peretz each score eight seats; Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism 7; Shas and Meretz 6; and the New Right, which failed to enter the Knesset in April, and Ehud Barak’s new party are each on just four.

The poll predicts an overall minor loss for the right-wing bloc including Yisrael Beytenu, dropping from 65 seats to 63. Such a scenario would again make it impossible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition without Liberman, who has vowed not to sit with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Israelis went to the polls on April 9, with 65 of the 120 MKs elected recommending Netanyahu as prime minister. But over the subsequent weeks of talks, Netanyahu failed to negotiate a majority coalition, with Liberman, whose Yisrael Betyenu currently has five seats, refusing to join because he was not given a guarantee that a bill regulating the drafting of ultra-Orthodox males into the IDF would be passed in its current form.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attend the opening ceremony of the Bahadim IDF Training Bases City in southern Israel, November 15, 2016. (Haim Bornstein/Pool)

Two possible scenarios reportedly being explored ahead of the September 17 national ballot are separate mergers between several parties to the right of Likud, and several to the left of Blue and White.

The Israel Hayom poll, however, showed that while both a union on the left comprising Barak’s new party, Labor and Meretz, and a right-wing Jewish Home-National Union-Otzma Yehudit-New Right-Zehut merger could each surge to 19 seats, neither would change the overall coalition math.

In a situation of a right-wing mega-merger, Likud would drop from its current 35 seats to just 25, the poll predicted, giving Blue and White the lead with 31 seats. In a scenario where Labor, Meretz and Barak’s new party join forces, the situation is almost exactly reversed with Blue and White dropping from 35 to 26 and Likud staying out front with 31.

With a right-wing union competing, Liberman would get six seats, while a left-wing union could boost him to seven. In both scenarios the right-wing bloc would therefore need Liberman in order to form a coalition: such a right-wing union would hold 63 seats in total.

The poll was conducted on July 2-4 and included 507 respondents. It had a 4.3 percent margin of error.

Surveys published on Wednesday broadcast by TV Channels 12 and 13, similarly both showed the right-wing and Orthodox bloc of parties loyal to Netanyahu falling slightly short of a Knesset majority, but indicated that a centrist-left-Arab bloc would fall shorter still, with, yet again, Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu capable of playing kingmaker.

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