Polls indicate Netanyahu-led bloc inching toward majority after Joint List split

Two surveys show Likud-led bloc with 60 seats; Balad, which split from Hadash and Ta’al, seen failing to make it into Knesset while other Arab parties teeter on edge of threshold

Illustrative image: People stand in front of an election campaign billboard for the Likud party showing a portrait of its leader former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in Ramat Gan, Israel, March 14, 2021. AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Illustrative image: People stand in front of an election campaign billboard for the Likud party showing a portrait of its leader former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and current Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in Ramat Gan, Israel, March 14, 2021. AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

Polls published Friday indicated that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc would win 60 seats in the upcoming election, just one seat short of the minimum majority required to form a government, after a split among the Arab parties.

The Joint List of Arab-led parties announced late Thursday it would run in upcoming elections as two separate factions, Hadash-Ta’al and Balad, in a surprise 11th-hour move that the polls predict will significantly dilute Arab representation in the Knesset on November 1.

Polls published Friday by Channel 12 and 13 conducted after the announcement both predicted that Balad would not pass the electoral threshold, wasting Arab votes.

Channel 12 found that Balad would get 0.9% of the vote, while Channel 13 predicted it would get 1.2%. In both cases, it is far from the 3.25% needed to get into the Knesset and represents a significant chunk of votes that will not count.

With that shift, both polls had the Netanyahu-led bloc at 60 seats. (Update: A third TV poll, on Saturday night, by Kan TV, also put the Netanyahu-led bloc on 60 seats.)

Channel 12 found that the largest party following the November 1 elections would again be Likud, with 33 seats.

Members of the Balad party speak to the media outside the election committee at the Knesset on September 15, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Following are Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party with 23 seats, the National Unity party led by Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar with 12 seats, and the far-right Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir with 12 seats.

The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas, led by Aryeh Deri, and United Torah Judaism, led by Moshe Gafni, would win eight and seven seats, respectively, according to the poll.

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party would win six seats, as would Merav Michaeli’s Labor, and the left-wing Meretz under Zahava Galon would win five.

The poll showed the Hadash-Ta’al alliance under Ayman Odeh and Mansour Abbas’s Islamist Ra’am both winning just four seats and hovering above the electoral threshold, a significant loss in Arab representation.

Both Balad and Ayelet Shaked’s Jewish Home would fail to make it into the Knesset.

The poll put Netanyahu’s religious-right bloc at 60 seats, one short of the majority, while the anti-Netanyahu parties are at 56, with Hadash-Ta’al at four.

Members of the Hadash and Ta’al factions in the Joint List speak to the media after breaking off from Balad on September 15, 2022 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

The Channel 13 poll had Likud at 32; Yesh Atid 24; Religious Zionism 13; National Unity 12; Shas 8; UTJ 7; Yisrael Beytenu 6; Labor 5; Meretz 5; Hadash-Ta’al 4 and Ra’am 4.

That also put the Netanyahu bloc at 60, the anti-Netanyahu parties at 56 and Hadash-Ta’al at 4.

Israeli TV polls are notably unreliable, but nevertheless, often steer the decision-making of politicians.

The Channel 12 poll asked 626 respondents and had a margin of error of 3.9%. Channel 13 polled 691 people and had a margin of error of 3.7%.

Thursday’s decision to split into separate Hadash-Ta’al and Balad lists came just an hour before final party lists were due to the Central Elections Committee, and only a day after the three factions had agreed to run again as the Joint List.

The Joint List was first formed in the run-up to the 2015 elections after the vote threshold was raised to 3.25% or four seats, representing a challenge for any single Arab party to get on its own. The alliance created an awkward marriage between communists, nationalists and Islamists, essentially forced together in order to retain political influence, and disputes and fissures have hounded the Joint List throughout its short life.

Submitting its own list Thursday, as it had done in 2021, Ra’am emphasized its desire to continue and perhaps expand its “political partnership” after the November election. The party is expected to try to join the next coalition, regardless of its leader.

With Israel seemingly deadlocked politically and entering its fifth election in under four years, potential prime ministers had pinned hopes on pushing smaller parties to unite, keeping likely supporters from falling below the cut-off mark. Netanyahu succeeded in brokering several alliances between smaller factions on his side of the political spectrum. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid had much less success, with the refusal of Labor to run with Meretz posing a risk of one or both slipping below the threshold, and the last-minute splintering of the Joint List creating a still bigger threat to his continued premiership.

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