Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud-Beytenu fell from 34 seats to 33 in the final Smith Research poll legally permitted to be published before Friday's deadline of four days before the election.
The Likud had held steady from the previous week at 34 seats in a poll taken Tuesday and Wednesday that was published in Friday's Jerusalem Post print edition. But Smith took another poll for JPost.com Wednesday and Thursday night that found that the Likud had lost a seat to Bayit Yehudi, which rose from 13 to 14.
Bayit Yehudi gaining a seat means that Atlanta native Jeremy Gimpel, who is 14th on the party's list, would enter the Knesset. Gimpel said he saw being on the cusp as a challenge to immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries to carry him into the Knesset as their representative.
"It is now within our hands to elect the first American immigrant in decades to the Knesset and take our message of choosing aliyah to all of Israel,” Gimpel said.
The Tzipi Livni Party fell in the poll from seven seats to only six, the same number won by Meretz and United Torah Judaism. Yesh Atid received the mandate lost by Livni, rising from 11 mandates to 12.
While the Tuesday-Wednesday poll found that Strong Israel would pass the two percent electoral threshold and Am Shalem would not, the Wednesday-Thursday poll found the opposite, with Amsalem predicted two to three seats.
The rest of the parties' poll numbers remained unchanged: Kadima two, Labor 17, Shas 11, Hadash four, Balad four, and United Arab List three.
Pollster Rafi Smith said he found that among voters under 30, Likud Beytenu received the most support, followed closely by Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid and Labor. The Tzipi Livni Party received nearly no support among voters under 30, even falling behind two parties not expected to pass the 2-percent electoral threshold, Eretz Chadasha and Green Leaf.
Livni and the candidates on her list tried to reach out to young people
on Thursday by visiting a mall and handing out coffee packets bearing a
message “Israel, Wake Up!” Livni received an endorsement on Thursday
from singer Ahinoam Nini.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jerusalem city
councilwoman Merav Cohen, who is ninth on the Livni list, predicted the
party’s standing among her fellow young people would improve.
talking to lots of young people, and there are many undecided people
among them,” Cohen said. “I can get them to realize that Tzipi might not
be the most in style but she is the best option for Israel, because she
is the only chance for a diplomatic agreement. My place in Knesset is
far from guaranteed, I will have to work hard and earn it.”
Meanwhile, Likud Beytenu vigorously denied a Channel 10 report on Thursday night that the joint list’s world renowned American strategists, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum, had left the campaign.
The exclusive report by Channel 10 political correspondent Nadav Perry said the American strategists had left amid a power struggle in the Likud Beytenu campaign with Israeli campaign director Gil Samsonov and other Likud officials. Perry reported that Finkelstein and Birnbaum had returned early to the United States.
The Likud responded that not only did Finkelstein and Birnbaum not leave the campaign, their departure was coordinated with the party two months ago. The party even produced a copy of Finkelstein’s itinerary printed two months ago to prove it.
“The report is much ado about nothing,” a source connected to Finkelstein’s office told The Jerusalem Post by phone from the United States.
“Arthur is never here on Election Day. Birnbaum usually is, but he is not this time for personal reasons.”
But another source close to Finkelstein confirmed the report telling Jerusalem Post columnist Ben Caspit that Finkelstein had left because of the behavior of Netanyahu who “interfered too much and made it impossible to work.”
The source said Netanyahu changed his mind too much and created negative energy that lost him many mandates.
The first source denied reports that Likud Beytenu was doing much less well than the strategist had predicted at the start of the campaign. The reports had said that Finkelstein predicted 45 Knesset seats for the joint list, which now receives as few as 32 in polls.
The source noted that Finkelstein had actually predicted that Likud Beytenu would receive the 42 mandates the two parties won last election, “plus or minus two or three seats.”
Likud Beytenu’s internal polls predict the joint list winning 38.
Livni, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett all called for the formation of a national unity government at a conference in Eilat on Thursday. Bennett surprised many at the conference by saying he backs removing outposts built illegally on private Palestinian land.
Bennett took pains to distance himself on Thursday from a potentially harmful endorsement for Bayit Yehudi from former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. Bennet said he would pass on Amir’s support. He attacked the media for obsessively focusing on things that did not matter.
“There are serious issues in this country,” he said. “People can’t afford to finish the month, and you are focusing on the [former] prime minister’s killer.”
Yoni Dayan and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.