Netanyahu faces electoral risk of being too successful

While the Likud party is soaring in the polls, the right-wing bloc as a whole hasn’t grown, scoring only 66 potential seats.

May 14, 2018 01:55
2 minute read.
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu



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Recent polls should have made Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu very, very happy.

The Likud reached a record high after US President Donald Trump canceled the Iran Deal: 35 seats in a Channel 2 poll, which is more seats than they’ve had since Ariel Sharon led the party.

Yesh Atid, which was in second place, lagged far behind with 18 seats, making the Likud the clear front-runner.

But it came as no surprise when rumors cropped up that Netanyahu is looking into lowering the electoral threshold, because those growing poll numbers can be as much of a curse for him as they are a blessing.

In other words, the Likud may be too successful for its own good right now.

According to a report on Channel 2 on Friday night, Netanyahu wants to decrease the threshold, which was raised from 2% to 3.25% ahead of the last election in 2015. No one in the Prime Minister’s Office would confirm the report, but Netanyahu weighed the same thing in October, and it makes sense for the idea to still be on the table.

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The reason is, in the same poll from last week in which the Likud soared to 35 seats, Shas dropped to four, just barely making it over the electoral threshold, and Kulanu and Yisrael Beytenu didn’t fare much better, with six each.

And while the Likud party is soaring in the polls, the right-wing bloc as a whole hasn’t grown, scoring only 66 potential seats.

So if Shas drops below the threshold, that leaves the Right with fewer seats than it has now – unless a party led by MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, formerly of Yisrael Beytenu, which got 5 seats in the poll, partners with the Right.

In the last election, 120,000 votes went to waste due to the extremist Yachad party – which was led by former Shas leader Eli Yishai and was a result of a rift in Shas – not accumulating the necessary percentage of votes.

In the next election, which is slated for November 2019 but could be earlier, the potential for lost votes is even greater, with Yishai flirting with the idea of another run, former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s libertarian Zehut party definitely running and a party led by former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon that could be thrown into the mix.

That makes up a lot of potential right-wing votes – ranging from the extreme to the more moderate – that may not be expressed in the Knesset’s makeup, the way the threshold stands now.

All this must leave Netanyahu thinking: What good will having over 30 seats do for him if he doesn’t have partners with whom to build a coalition? To keep his partners alive, he may have to revert to a 2% electoral threshold.

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