A new television poll over the weekend suggested Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is regaining support ahead of the March 23 national election, but the premier remained without a clear path to forming a new government.
Meanwhile, excitement around Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hauldai’s The Israelis party appeared to be fading since the launch of the center-left platform last month.
Likud would pick up 31 seats if voting was held today, down from its current tally of 36 but up by several seats over previous polls, according to the Channel 13 news survey aired Friday.
With 16 seats apiece, the poll said the second-largest parties would be former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Trailing them was MK Naftali Bennett’s national-religious Yamina party, with 13.
The predominantly Arab Joint List shed support, slumping in the poll to 10 seats. The electoral alliance of four separate factions has 15 seats in the current Knesset.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism party were each forecast to pick up 7 seats.
The poll was published the same day Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced he intends to file criminal charges against Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the leader of Shas, for alleged tax offenses. Deri, who was convicted and jailed for bribery decades ago, said he was confident the charges would be dropped after a pre-trial hearing.
MK Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu trailed the Haredi factions with 6 seats.
Next in the poll was Huldai’s The Israelis with 5 seats, down from previous surveys since the party’s formation. The left-wing Meretz was also picked up 5 seats in the survey.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White was predicted to barely scrape past the minimum voting threshold and pick up 4 seats, rounding out the poll. Gantz’s party has hemorrhaged support since he formed a coalition with Netanyahu after ruling out sitting in a government led by the premier due to his indictment on graft charges.
The Labor, Jewish Home, Gesher and Tnufa parties would all fail to enter the Knesset, the poll said — though Labor would pick up 5 seats if former prime minister Ehud Barak returned to the helm.
Together with Shas and UTJ, which are allied with Likud, Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc would only have 45 seats. If Yamina were to rejoin the bloc, it would have 58 seats, still short of a majority in the 120 seat Knesset.
Parties seeking Netanyahu’s ouster would have 62 seats between them, enough for a majority, but with the factions ranging from the Joint List to the right-wing New Hope, it is far from clear they could overcome their differences to form a government.
Asked who is their preferred choice for prime minister, respondents put Netanyahu ahead of Sa’ar, 42% to 36%.
The survey was conducted by pollster Kamil Fuchs and included 687 respondents, with a 3.7 percent margin of error.
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.
Parties have until February 4 to finalize their lists of candidates and any mergers or establishment of new factions before then could further shake up the electoral map ahead of the March 23 vote.
Netanyahu and Gantz reached an agreement that was supposed to see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021, but a loophole in the agreement saw the coalition collapse due to Netanyahu’s refusal to pass an annual budget, triggering elections.