Israel remains politically divided, no government for Netanyahu - poll

The Labor and Meretz leaders met on Saturday evening with the prime minister to discuss a potential merger between the two left-wing factions.

 Premier candidates: Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Premier candidates: Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Israel's political stalemate continued on Saturday evening as an election poll released on Channel 12's "Meet the Press" program found that, if the elections were held on Saturday, no bloc could form a government.

Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu's bloc remained at 59 seats, two shy of the coveted 61 needed to form a coalition. The bloc also received 59 seats in a Maariv poll published on Friday.

If the election was held today, Likud would remain the strongest faction in the Knesset with 32 seats, the poll found. Prime Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid sits comfortably in second place with 23 Knesset seats.

National Unity, headed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, continues to dwindle in support with only 12 seats gained, according to the poll. MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir's Religious Zionists party are predicted to win 11 seats in the poll. Elsewhere on the Right, Shas gained one seat at the expense of the Likud, rising up to nine, while United Torah Judaism (UTJ) remains steady with seven.

Meretz leaps over Labor ahead of Galon-Michaeli-Lapid meeting

As also found in Maariv's poll on Friday, Zehava Galon's Meretz jumped above Labor in recent days, with the left-wing faction gaining six seats in the next Knesset according to N12's poll, equalling former chairman Nitzan Horowitz's achievement in the previous election last year.

 Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, Meretz leader Zehava Galon (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, Meretz leader Zehava Galon (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90, YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Labor, headed by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, only won five seats in the most recent poll amid calls by Lapid and many voices on Israel's Left calling for Labor and Meretz to merge

The two leaders met on Saturday evening with the prime minister to discuss a potential merger between the two left-wing factions. Michaeli, who resoundingly rejected calls for a merger, said before the meeting she was glad to hear Lapid's opinion on the matter "from himself rather than from the media."

"We might disagree on the path, but the goal is clear: Prevent Netanyahu's return to power," the transportation minister added.

Meretz remains committed to a merger, Zehava Galon said after leaving the Prime Minister's Office following a 45-minute meeting, which was held "in good spirits," she added. "We are committed to a merger in order to block Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu," she stressed.

Also receiving five seats each were Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu, MK Mansour Abbas' Ra'am and the Joint List, which on Saturday announced an agreement between Hadash and Balad to run again in November.

The Zionist Spirit again failed to pass the electoral threshold, only receiving 1.1% of the vote in the poll, fueling speculation that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel could split only months after merging factions.