Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman sits in his office in the Knesset.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu has lost 62.5 percent of its support since the latest corruption allegations hit the party, and if it falls further, it may not return to the Knesset in the March 17 election, according to a Panels Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister publication, Maariv Sof Hashavua.
Last week’s poll predicted eight Knesset seats for Yisrael Beytenu, down from the party’s current 13. This week’s poll conducted on Wednesday says it will win only five.
Labor rose from 23 seats in last week’s poll to 24, and the Likud gained two seats in a week, from 21 to 23. The poll predicted 17 seats for Bayit Yehudi, 11 for Yesh Atid, seven each for United Torah Judaism, Koolanu and Meretz, six for the United Arab List-Ta’al, five for Hadash, four each for Shas and former Shas chairman Eli Yishai’s breakaway party, Yahad Ha’am Itanu, and zero for Balad and Kadima.
Ironically, it could be legislation sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu in the outgoing Knesset that keeps the party out of the parliament. A bill authored by MK David Rotem raised the threshold from 2% to 3.25%, which is expected to amount to some 125,000 votes and make four seats the smallest faction in the Knesset instead of the current two.
When Yisrael Beytenu proposed the bill, Arab MKs said it was intended to harm their factions but that it ultimately would boomerang and help them. The three Arab factions are in advanced talks in an effort to unite and run together in the election.
The poll found, in response to a separate question, that if the Arab parties unite, they would win 13 seats and become the Knesset’s fourth-largest faction after Labor, the Likud and Bayit Yehudi.
When asked whether they thought the timing of the investigation into the Yisrael Beytenu figures was political, 44% of respondents said yes, 40% no and 16% did not know. But among Yisrael Beytenu voters 80% thought it was political.
Asked to grade how corrupt party leaders are on a scale of one to 10, respondents gave Liberman an average score of 7.1, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 5.5, Hatnua head Tzipi Livni 5.4 and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid 5.1.
The party leaders seen as less corrupt were Labor chairman Isaac Herzog at 4.6, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett at 3.6 and Koolanu head Moshe Kahlon at 3.
Only 14% of respondents said the corruption allegations would affect their vote. By contrast, 40% said the past week’s reports about poverty would do so.
When asked which party leaders could best handle economic and socioeconomic issues, respondents gave top scores to Kahlon and Herzog and the poorest grade to Liberman.
On security issues, respondents gave Netanyahu by far the best score and Kahlon and Lapid the lowest. Asked whether they believe another escalation will take place soon in the Gaza Strip, 64% said yes, 16% said no and 20% did not know.
Netanyahu received more good news in the poll. The proportion of respondents who said they did not want him to remain prime minister after the election fell to 55% from 58% last week and 66% the week before.
The poll of 534 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult population had a margin of error of ±4.3%.