Countdown to April 9

Good news for Netanyahu: Last pre-election poll puts Likud, Blue and White even

Right-wing, ultra-Orthodox bloc forecast to win majority in all final surveys, leaving Netanyahu well-placed to retain power, though several show Gantz’s party ahead of Likud

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White were neck-and-neck in a poll released Friday evening, setting up a frantic end to election campaigns as parties worked to shore up their support before Israelis vote on April 9.

Overall, right-wing and religious parties received 66 seats in the poll, versus 54 for the center-left and Arab parties, mirroring the results of all major surveys released in recent days and again suggesting that Netanyahu will have an easier route to building a governing majority.

The survey, aired by Channel 13 news, was the last of the campaign for the 21st Knesset, with Israeli election law barring the publication of further polls after Friday.

Likud and Blue and White were dead even with 28 seats in the poll, after a survey released earlier in the week by the network gave the former a one-seat lead.

Following the two parties in the poll was the opposition Labor Party with 11 seats, similar to the total it received in other surveys this week.

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay tours the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, on April 3, 2019, ahead of general elections for the Knesset. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

After Labor was the Union of Right-Wing Parties, an alliance of the national-religious Jewish Home and National Union factions with the extremist Otzma Yehudit, with seven seats.

Hadash-Ta’al, a merger of two parties from the outgoing Knesset’s Joint (Arab) List, had six seats in the poll, as did maverick former Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut, the nationalist New Right and the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party and left-wing Meretz each received five seats, while Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu, hawkish former defense minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and the Ra’am-Balad alliance of Arab factions each received four seats.

Asked their preference for prime minister, 46 percent of poll respondents said Netanyahu, 37% said Gantz and 17% said they did not know.

The poll was conducted for the network by pollster Camil Fuchs and included 858 respondents. The margin of error was 3.4%.

While Channel 13 had Likud and Blue and White polling even, and a pair of other polls had one or the other leading by a single seat, three separate surveys gave Gantz’s party a 4-5 seat advantage.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to supporters from his Likud party at his official residence in Jerusalem on April 5, warning them that Likud could lose the elections, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

In light of those results, Netanyahu issued an appeal Friday to right-wing voters to back Likud, warning it “is in danger” of losing its hold on power.

Encouraging voters from fellow right-wing parties to throw their support behind Likud could prove to be a risky strategy for Netanyahu, as a subsequent failure by one or more of them to clear the minimum electoral threshold could deprive the premier of a majority needed to form a ruling coalition.

Blue and White no. 2 Yair Lapid said in an interview with The Times of Israel on Thursday that if the party receives at least four seats more than Likud, it will get the first shot at putting together a government after Tuesday’s vote, a sentiment that has been echoed by Netanyahu.

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