The lead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party fell to single digits for the first time since after the formation of Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party, with a new poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and Maariv finding the Likud’s lead over Yesh Atid had fallen to just nine seats.
The two-month trend of Yesh Atid gaining at the polls and New Hope’s falling continued, as Yamina threatened to pass New Hope into third place. New Hope, which at one point trailed Likud by only five seats, is now 15 mandates behind the prime minister’s party. This was a three-seat drop for New Hope, which last week pulled in 16 seats in a survey by the same pollster.
“In campaigns, there are good polls and bad polls,” Sa’ar told Channel 12 on Thursday night. “We will start rising now and reach our peak on Election Day.”
The Panels Research survey, taken by pollster Menachem Lazar, predicted 28 seats for Likud, 19 for Yesh Atid, 13 for New Hope, 12 for Yamina, eight each for the Joint List and Shas, seven each for United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu, six for Labor, and four each for Blue and White, Meretz and the Religious Zionist Party. The Ra’am (United Arab List) Party of MK Mansour Abbas did not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Unlike other recent polls, which found that Yamina leader Naftali Bennett could be the kingmaker who could grant a majority to Netanyahu or opposition leader Yair Lapid, the new poll predicted 47 seats for the bloc of Likud, Shas, UTJ and the Religious Zionist Party, which would not be enough for a majority together with Yamina.
Bennett could however join the 53 seats of the anti-Netanyahu bloc of Yesh Atid, New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor and Blue and White for 61 seats without Meretz and the Joint List.
Like other recent polls, it found that when asked who is most fit to be prime minister, Sa’ar performs best against Netanyahu. The prime minister’s lead over Sa’ar in that category was found to be 4%. Netanyahu’s lead over Bennett is 8%, and his lead over Lapid is 18%.
The poll of 550 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult Israeli population had a margin of error of 4.2%.
Netanyahu’s Likud lashed out at both Sa’ar and Bennett in a new ad on Thursday, warning that a vote for either New Hope or Yamina would bring Lapid to power. Bennett responded by challenging Netanyahu to a debate on the coronavirus, the economy and other key issues.
New Hope released an ad attacking Yamina, reminding voters that Bennett only appeared and participated in 190 votes on legislation in the Knesset out of 1,479 throughout the outgoing 23rd Knesset.
Sa’ar criticized Netanyahu on Thursday for signing a vote-sharing agreement with the Religious Zionist Party of MK Bezalel Smotrich and far right Otzma Yehudit Party head Itamar Ben-Gvir. He said Ben-Gvir would not be part of any coalition he would form, and that signing the deal showed that Netanyahu had “lost his shame and his limitations and would do anything to remain in power.”
Surplus-vote agreements enable those votes for one party beyond what is needed for a mandate to move to another party and not be wasted.
Yamina and New Hope signed a surplus-vote sharing agreement between their two parties on January 4. Hours later, Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman signed a similar deal. The four parties conspired to make sure the Likud would have no party to sign a deal with that would definitely cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Deals were also struck between Shas and UTJ, and Blue and White with the New Economy Party of former finance ministry accountant-general Yaron Zelekha. The Labor Party and Meretz signed a surplus vote sharing agreement on Thursday.
The method in calculating who gets the surplus votes is called the Bader-Ofer Law, after Gahal MK Yohanan Bader and Alignment MK Avraham Ofer – the forerunners of the Likud and Labor, respectively – who proposed it in 1973.