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Poll signals slight drop in support for Netanyahu’s Likud, continued deadlock

TV survey indicates neither pro- nor anti-PM blocs would have clear path to forming a government if the March 23 elections were held today

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 14, 2021, in front of a mask-clad bust of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 14, 2021, in front of a mask-clad bust of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is losing some support ahead of the March 23 elections, according to a new television poll published Monday, which forecasted that neither the premier nor his rivals will have a clear path to forming a government.

The poll aired by Channel 13 news predicted Likud would be the largest party if elections were held today, picking up 28 seats. That tally was down from the 36 seats the party has in the outgoing Knesset and the 30 seats it received in a poll released by the same network last week.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party was predicted to be the second biggest party with 17 seats, followed by former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope with 13 seats and MK Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina with 11 seats.

The predominantly Arab Joint List alliance would pick up eight seats, the survey said, while the ultra-Orthodox United Torah and Shas parties would get seven seats apiece.

The Labor Party was forecast to get six seats. The center-left party, which led Israel for the country’s first three decades, has enjoyed a bump in the polls following the election of new leader Merav Michaeli, after consistently failing to cross the minimum vote threshold in surveys.

The left-wing Meretz, the far-right Religious Zionism alliance and right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu also received five seats in the poll. Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and the Islamist Ra’am party will each get four seats, the poll said, just clearing the electoral threshold.

Along with Likud’s Haredi allies and the Religious Zionism alliance, Netanyahu’s bloc would have 47 seats, short of the 61 needed to form a ruling majority, which it couldn’t reach even with the support of Yamina. Parties who have ruled out sitting in a Netanyahu-led government had 58 seats between them, necessitating the support of Yamina or Ra’am, though it is unclear if all these factions could put aside their ideological divides.

Netanyahu led all other party chiefs in who is best suited to be prime minister, with 34% of respondents saying he is the right man for the job. The premier was followed by Sa’ar with 18%, Lapid with 17% and Bennett with 10%.

The survey, conducted by pollster Kamil Fuchs, included 703 respondents and had a 3.7% margin of error.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue and White party, at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on June 21, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

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.

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.

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