Final polls show PM on verge of majority

Netanyahu does not promise to prevent third election; Liberman warns if PM wins, extremists will extort him so he can obtain immunity.

Benny Gantz has awoken from his post-election slumber. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Benny Gantz has awoken from his post-election slumber.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came close to the 61 MKs needed to form a right-wing government without Yisrael Beytenu in the final polls on Friday permitted to be taken by law.
A poll broadcast on Channel 12 predicted 59 MKs for Netanyahu’s bloc, while Channel 13’s poll predicted 58 MKs and Maariv’s poll 57. Maariv uses Rafi Smith, the same pollster used by Netanyahu.
Netanyahu gave interviews to three television channels on Saturday night and claimed in all three that if the election ended now, he would lose and the next government would be formed by Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid.
When Channel 12 interviewer Rina Matzliach told Netanyahu that in fact he was not losing the election, Netanyahu said: “That is not true. Their bloc includes [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman, and together with him, they win.”
Asked in the interview if he would return his mandate to President Reuven Rivlin if he failed to form a government again, Netanyahu refused to make such a promise, saying only “I hope we don’t get to such a situation.”
Netanyahu’s opponents warned in weekend interviews that if the Right bloc wins 61 seats, he would pass bills that would give him immunity from prosecution from his three criminal cases. Netanyahu denied the charges.
“I will not need immunity, because the cases against me are collapsing,” he said. “The cases are based on torturing state’s witnesses and gossip.”
Liberman warned that if the Right bloc wins 61 MKs, extremists from United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yamina would dominate the government and extort Netanyahu in return for their help in obtaining immunity.
“Whatever you see in polls, add five to it and it will be accurate,” Liberman said when asked about Yisrael Beytenu falling in the polls.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh had the strongest criticism of Netanyahu’s behavior, saying “Netanyahu is a psychopath. He will do everything to escape justice.”
The polls found that the left-wing Democratic Union and Labor-Gesher parties had joined the far-right party Otzma Yehudit in teetering on the electoral threshold. A Channel 13 poll predicted five seats for the Democratic Union, four for Labor-Gesher and four for Otzma.
The leaders of the parties on the Left pleaded with their voters to save them instead of voting for Blue and White.
“If Labor does not cross the threshold, Netanyahu will definitely remain prime minister,” Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz said.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he would honor his rotation agreement with Lapid, saying “I stand behind agreements, and the public should appreciate that.”
The final Smith Research poll that can be legally published before the election predicted 33 seats for Likud, 32 for Blue and White, 12 for the Joint List, nine for Yamina, eight for Yisrael Beytenu, eight for Shas, seven for UTJ, six for the Democratic Union and five for Labor-Gesher.
Smith said his final polls indicate that Likud and Blue and White are getting stronger at the expense of their satellite parties in their political bloc. He said he expected the Joint List to do better than polls indicate due to higher Arab turnout.
Yisrael Beytenu has been falling in the polls in recent weeks, losing support to both Likud and to Blue and White, which adopted Yisrael Beytenu’s call for a secular unity government.
The poll of 650 respondents taken Thursday night and Friday morning had an error margin of ±3.9%.