Blue and White drops two seats, Likud still behind – poll

Liberman surprises, says he’s prepared to sit with Meretz in coalition

NETANYAHU AND GANTZ vote in April. Are we simply on our way to a fourth election?  (photo credit: REUTERS)
NETANYAHU AND GANTZ vote in April. Are we simply on our way to a fourth election?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign alleging collaboration between Blue and White and the Joint List has harmed Benny Gantz’s party, helped Ayman Odeh’s party and not aided the Likud at all, a Panels Research poll taken for Maariv and The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday and Thursday found.
The poll found that Blue and White would win 34 seats, less than the 36 predicted for the party last week and the week before. The Likud would remain at 33 seats for the third week in a row. The Joint List would win 14, one more than predicted in the last two polls and one more than it has in the current Knesset.
When asked who is most fit to be prime minister, 49% said Netanyahu, 40% said Gantz, and 11% said they did not know. The gap of 9% grew from a 5% gap in recent polls by Panels Research.
According to the poll of 650 respondents representing a statistical sample of the Israeli adult population, if the March 2 election were to be held now, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Shas would each win nine seats, and United Torah Judaism, Yamina and Yisrael Beytenu would each win seven.
Labor-Gesher-Meretz announced this week it would seek the Education and Health portfolios in a Gantz-led government. But Gantz announced Wednesday in Kfar Saba his party would keep the Health portfolio and said Thursday in Tel Aviv it would also keep the Education Ministry.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman revealed on Thursday that he would be willing to be part of a coalition with Labor-Gesher-Meretz.
In past elections, Liberman had ruled out Meretz and said its leaders belonged in the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah and that they represented the Palestinians in the Knesset. But he said he had changed his mind now that Meretz is running together with Labor.
“I sat [in a government] with Amir Peretz before and we got along, and Orly Levy-Abecassis grew up and blossomed in Yisrael Beytenu,” Liberman told Army Radio.
Netanyahu responded by attacking Liberman on Twitter, asking: “Is there anyone who still doubts that Liberman will join a coalition with [Blue and White leader Benny] Gantz and the Left – and for that dragged us to elections three times?”
Liberman responded with a long list of steps Netanyahu has taken to harm the Right throughout his career and a list of past Netanyahu bonds with the center-left.
“Before preaching to everyone, he should be reminded that he is the one who gave Hebron to [then-Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat,” Liberman said.
Liberman blasted Yamina leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who he said were doing everything possible to return to their former bond with Blue and White MK Yair Lapid.
Yamina responded that Bennett said clearly on Wednesday that he would only join a right-wing government and that as defense minister, he has accomplished more in two months than Liberman did in the role in two years.
United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman told Army Radio he would not sit in a coalition with Liberman and that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would remain together.
“Read my lips: The Right bloc will not break up,” Litzman said.