Bennett and Shaked.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A poll sponsored by Bayit Yehudi activists that was broadcast Tuesday found that there is a candidate who could win more seats as party chairman than incumbent Naftali Bennett if she joined the April 27 party leadership race: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
The Smith Research poll, which was first revealed on Army Radio, found that if elections were held now, Bayit Yehudi under Bennett would win 12 seats, but if led by Shaked would win 15. The poll indicated that Shaked, who is secular, could take more seats away from the Likud.
The only problem with the poll is that its sponsors know very well that there is zero chance Shaked will join the race by next week’s April 9 deadline. Shaked is loyal to Bennett, has endorsed him and even joined the “Bennett for party chairman” WhatsApp group on Monday.
The only candidates currently facing Bennett are the former head of the ultra-Orthodox Nahal Haredi IDF unit, retired colonel Yonatan Branski; Rabbi Shimon Or of Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood; and Rabbi Yitzhak Zaga, who heads an organization called Spirit of Jerusalem that is committed to studying the works of former chief rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook.
But party activist Yossi Fuchs, who initiated the poll, said he has not given up hope on Shaked running.
“Three unknown candidates do not make it a race,” Fuchs said. “We believe the way to get Ayelet to run is to push from the bottom. If Shaked is the head, there will be many more votes from the Likud. We have to ask where the Bayit Yehudi is headed here. We want the party to save its identity and still be able to grow.”
When asked about the poll at an event of the Or Yarok organization that fights traffic accidents, she declined to address it, but reiterated a statement she made last month that she sees herself as a future premier after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett.
Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev did address the poll, saying that if she ran, he might support her.
The Shaked poll was not the first poll taken in the race that raised eyebrows. A poll taken last week by supporters of Branski found that he would win 31% of the vote and Bennett 51% in a head-to-head race.
That poll was taken using the unconventional method of sending a text message to 6,000 Bayit Yehudi members and tallying the results among the 400 people who responded to the message. Poll initiator Avraham Cimerring said he found his method more accurate than normal polls.
But Bayit Yehudi Mevaseret Zion branch head Jeremy Saltan, who is an expert on polls, said no respected pollster would accept a poll that was not conducted with a representative sample model.
“I don’t think anyone is going to believe the spin that Bennett has the support of just 51% of party members,” Saltan said.
In another curiosity, there was also briefly a fictitious candidate in the race. Billboards were sponsored and emails sent by a purported retired IDF major-general named Rabbi Yaakov Lapidot. But Bayit Yehudi officials checked and there is no party member by that name, so even if he exists, Lapidot cannot run.
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