Poll: Yamina closing in on Likud; public supports limiting protests, prayers

Survey also finds that if popular Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton ran her own party, she could win up to eight seats, although she has given no sign she plans to do so

Naftali Bennett visits the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad, September 6, 2020 (FLASH90)
Naftali Bennett visits the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad, September 6, 2020 (FLASH90)

The right-wing opposition Yamina party is closing the gap with the ruling Likud, which has seen its support slide in recent weeks, according to a poll published Wednesday.

The survey published by Channel 12 news indicated that if elections were held now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would win 29 seats, seven fewer than it currently holds.

The poll showed Yamina up to 21 seats, continuing a trend seen in recent months as faction head Naftali Bennett has pounded the prime minister for the government’s purported mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, while presenting himself as a viable right-wing alternative. The party currently holds only five seats in the Knesset.

No elections are set to take place, but speculation is rampant that an early vote will be called sometime in the next several months, as bad blood between Netanyahu and his Blue and White partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz continues to brew, in the shadow of a budget deadline at the end of the year that could automatically fell the government.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a vote to stave off a budget deadline and thus avert elections, at the Knesset on August 24, 2020.(Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

Centrist Yesh Atid, led by opposition chair Yair Lapid, appeared to be holding the line with 17 Knesset seats, the number it currently holds.

According to the poll, Gantz’s Blue and White party is projected to win nine seats, a five-seat drop from the 14 it currently holds.

The other parties projected to win seats were the Arab-majority Joint List (15), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (9) and United Torah Judaism (7), the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beytenu (8) and left-wing Meretz (5).

Labor, Gesher, Derech Eretz, and the Jewish Home party were not projected to pass the electoral threshold for entering the Knesset.

The poll also found that 70 percent of the public supports restricting the weekly protests against Netanyahu as a means to help rein in the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic in Israel. Only 22% were against, while 8% had no opinion.

Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside his official residence in Jerusalem on September 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The public also supports shutting synagogues over the Yom Kippur fast, with 60% favoring the move. Thirty-two percent were against and 8% had no opinion.

The poll was released as ministers debated imposing a complete closure on Israel to try to stop the spiraling virus numbers.

Yifat Shasha-Biton at a Housing Ministry ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The poll also trialed the idea of a party led by Knesset Coronavirus Committee chair Yifat Shasha-Biton, finding that she would garner eight seats at the expense of three seats from the Likud base, two from Blue and White, two from Yamina, and one from Yesh Atid.

Shasha-Biton, a Likud member formerly from the defunct Kulanu party who has become a vocal a critic of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, has risen in popularity after a number of public clashes with party officials.

She has given no indication that she is considering leaving Likud or setting up her own party. Previous polls have also been overly generous to newcomers, who have failed to garner actual seats in elections.

The poll was conducted online and over the phone with 512 responders who formed a representative sample of the entire Israeli population, and with a margin of error of 4.4%.

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