Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a majority coalition after the April elections, would again hold the balance of power were elections held today, two opinion polls showed Wednesday.
The surveys, broadcast by TV Channels 12 and 13, both showed a right-wing and Orthodox bloc of parties loyal to Netanyahu would fall slightly short of a Knesset majority, but that a centrist-left-Arab bloc would fall shorter still, with Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu capable of playing kingmaker.
The surveys were taken as Labor, which fell to a dismal six in April, elected Amir Peretz as its new leader. Peretz, 67, a former defense minister, said Wednesday he had a program that would lift Labor to 15 seats when Israel next goes to the polls.
The surveys, conducted after former prime minister Ehud Barak announced his return to politics last week, showed Netanyahu firmly preferred by Israelis to both Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Barak.
The Channel 12 survey showed support for the various parties, ahead of new elections scheduled for September 17, as follows: Netanyahu’s Likud 32 (down from 35, plus 4 from Kulanu, in the April 7 elections); Gantz’s Blue and White 31 (down from 35); Joint Arab List 12 (10); Yisrael Beytenu 9 (5); Labor 8 (6); Shas 7 (8); United Torah Judaism 7 (8); Union of Right-Wing Parties 5 (5); New Right 5 (0) and Meretz 4 (4).
Ehud Barak’s unnamed new party was placed just below the 3.25% Knesset threshold at 3%, and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut was also below the threshold at 2.1%.
Those figures amount to a 56-strong bloc for the right/ultra-Orthodox and 51 for the center-left-Arabs, with Liberman holding the balance of power.
The same survey showed 40% prefer Netanyahu as prime minister compared to 30% for Gantz, and 41% favor Netanyahu as premier compared to 16% for Barak.
Conducted by Midgam by phone and internet among 600 representative voters, the survey had a 4% margin of error.
The Channel 13 survey differed slightly. It gave Likud 31; Blue and White 29; Joint Arab List 9; Yisrael Beytenu 8; Labor 7; Shas 7; Ehud Barak’s party 6; United Torah Judaism 6; New Right 5; Union of Right-Wing Parties 4, Meretz 4 and Zehut 4.
That adds up to a 57-strong right/ultra-Orthodox bloc and a 55-strong center-left-Arab bloc, with Liberman again the potential kingmaker
Asked their preference for prime minister, 46% said Netanyahu, 24% said Gantz and 10% said Barak.
This survey, conducted by Statnet among a 700-strong representative sample of Israeli voters, also had a 4% margin of error.
Israelis went to the polls on April 9, and 65 of the 120 MKs who were elected then recommended Netanyahu as prime minister. But over the subsequent weeks of talks, Netanyahu failed to negotiate a majority coalition, with Liberman refusing to join because he was not given a guarantee that a bill regulating the drafting of ultra-Orthodox males into the IDF would be passed in its current form. Rather than allow another MK the opportunity to try to form a majority coalition, Netanyahu successfully pushed for the dissolution of the Knesset on May 30, setting another election for September 17.