Third election won’t break political deadlock in Israel, poll finds

Channel 13 survey shows Blue and White, Likud each gaining one Knesset seat at expense of smaller parties, leaving stalemate essentially unchanged

Blue and White head Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Flash90)
Blue and White head Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Flash90)

With politicians warning that yet another election could be on the horizon amid ongoing political deadlock, a television poll published Tuesday evening predicted that very little would change in the event of a third round of ballot-casting.

According to the Channel 13 survey, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White would remain as the largest party if new elections were held, growing from 33 to 34 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud would also see a one seat bump, rising to 33 seats.

The Joint List of four predominantly Arab parties would maintain 13 seats, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would hold steady at eight seats.

The poll found that Shas would fall to seven seats from the nine it won in September, while its fellow ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, would stay at seven seats.

The center-left Labor-Gesher would drop one seat from its current tally to five, while Jewish Home-National Union, which ran in the last elections as part of the national-religious Yamina alliance, would pick up five seats.

New Right, which was also part of Yamina, would get four seats, as would the left-wing Democratic Camp, according to the Channel 13 poll.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (L), President Reuven Rivlin (C) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Overall, Likud and its religious allies would have 56 seats, the same number as the center-left and Arab parties would receive. Liberman would retain his status as kingmaker, holding the balance of power between the blocs.

Asked who they would hold responsible if the country goes to elections for a third time in less than a year, 37% of respondents said Netanyahu, 21% said Gantz, and 30% said the two would be equally to blame. Eight percent said neither, while 4% did not know.

The survey was conducted for the network by pollster Camil Fuchs. It included 706 respondents and had a 4.1% margin of error.

The poll came a day after Netanyahu announced that he had failed to form a majority government in the Knesset, marking a major setback for the embattled prime minister that plunges the country into a new period of political uncertainty.

Facing a Wednesday deadline, Netanyahu said he was returning the mandate to form a government to Rivlin, blaming his failure on Gantz, Blue and White deputy head Yair Lapid, and Liberman.

On Tuesday, Rivlin announced he was giving the mandate to Gantz to try and build a Knesset majority after the president’s chief of staff completed a second round of consultations with representatives of all Knesset parties.

Netanyahu was initially tasked by Rivlin with trying to form a government based on the strength of his pact with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties to negotiate as a bloc of 55 MKs after September 17’s inconclusive elections. Gantz heads a bloc of 54 MKs from the center, left and Arab parties.

Liberman is not in either bloc and has called for a secular unity government comprising Likud, Blue and White and his own party. But Netanyahu has refused to abandon his traditional ultra-Orthodox partners Shas and United Torah Judaism. And Gantz has so far refused to partner with Likud so long as Netanyahu is facing possible indictment in three corruption cases.

An elderly ultra-Orthodox Jewish man casts his ballot at a voting station in the city of Bnei Brak during the Israeli parliamentary election on September 17, 2019. (Menahem KAHANA/AFP)

However, without Likud Gantz is seen as having an even slimmer chance than Netanyahu of forming a coalition.

If Gantz fails during his 28-day window, a majority of lawmakers could try during an additional 21 days to endorse a third candidate, something that has never happened before in Israel. And if that fails, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a third election within a year.

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