Polls published by major TV networks Thursday showed the ruling Likud party and its Blue and White rivals tied in a stiff battle for supremacy, with each projected to win 32 seats in the 22nd Knesset.
Both polls also showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains unable to form the right-wing coalition he desires without rival Avigdor Liberman — with only 56 seats for the right-wing bloc in the 120-member Knesset, not including Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.
The surveys by Channel 12 and Channel 13 showed identical results for Likud and Blue and White, with the two parties tied 32-32 in both polls.
Yisrael Beytenu was next on the Channel 13 poll with 11 seats, though Channel 12 gave it only 9 seats; the Joint List of Arab parties received 10 seats in both polls; the Yamina alliance of right-wing parties won 9-10 seats in the two surveys; the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism won 8 seats in both; the ultra-Orthodox Shas party won 6-7 seats; the left-wing Democratic Camp was projected to net 6-7 seats while Labor-Gesher was at 5-6.
The far-right Otzma Yehudit party remained below the 3.25-percent electoral threshold, winning between 2.5%-2.76% in the two polls.
Both surveys project Netanyahu and his right-wing allies winning a total of 56 seats when excluding Liberman — leaving the prime minister worse off than he was when he called the new elections with 60 seats. Centrist, left and Arab parties together could muster no more than 55 seats, the polls found.
Over the past two days Likud and Yamina officials have called on right-wing voters not to vote for Otzma Yehudit, saying the extremist party could be wasting votes worth 2-3 seats in the legislature.
Liberman appears to remain the kingmaker following the last elections.
After previous elections in April, the secularist Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led coalition due to an impasse with ultra-Orthodox parties.
The Yisrael Beytenu chief has said he plans to force a unity government that will include himself, Likud and Blue and White and leave out religious parties. Likud has ruled out a coalition with Blue and White, while the latter has said it would be open to a unity government with Likud — so long as it does not include Netanyahu.
Both Liberman and Blue and White leaders have claimed they have been privy to rumblings of rebellion in Likud should Netanyahu fail to form a government for a second time, and believe the ruling party will replace him as its leader in such an eventuality.