Coalition suffers blow in election anniversary poll

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu predicted to rise.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to form a government with the parties in his current coalition if an election were held now, a poll broadcast on Channel 2 Saturday night found.
The poll by Midgam pollsters Mina Tzemach and Mano Geva was taken in honor of Sunday’s anniversary of the 2015 election on the Hebrew calendar. The parties in Netanyahu’s 61-seat coalition would win only 57 mandates, it found.
Netanyahu’s Likud party fell to 26 seats from its current 30, with many of the votes shifting rightward to Bayit Yehudi, which was predicted to rise from eight seats to 11.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu fell, according to the poll, from 10 seats to seven. Shas fell to six from its current seven, while United Torah Judaism rose one seat from seven to eight.
Sources close to Netanyahu said they were satisfied with the poll, because the Likud’s support was relatively stable, despite six months of terrorist attacks. They said the most dramatic developments in the poll were about the fight between Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid was the big winner in the poll, rising from 11 seats to 19, while the Zionist Union fell from 24 seats to 18. Yesh Atid chose not to react to the survey, but Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog said it reflected the importance of party leaders putting aside their egos and uniting against Netanyahu.
Herzog faced a challenge on Saturday from Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit, who accused him of “being afraid” of an upcoming party leadership race that is in the process of being postponed. Margalit called upon former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi to enter politics with Labor and hinted that he himself was mulling running against Herzog for Labor chairman.
“Every day that passes with Netanyahu in power destroys my state,” Margalit said. “I am considering running and when I decide, everyone will know.”
Channel 2 reported over the weekend that opponents of Netanyahu have developed new strategies for unseating him. The report said that one possibility was to have multiple parties run together or promise not to enter any coalition that Netanyahu would form but agree to a government led by someone else in the Likud.
The report suggested that Kahlon could join the heads of Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu in such a move. He denied this on Saturday night, saying that he did not establish his party to take part in dirty political maneuvers. He said he hoped the current coalition could complete its term that is set to end in 2019.
Likud officials dared their rivals to embark on such a maneuver, predicting it would boomerang, help Netanyahu, and harm Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman.
Kulanu officials said they had their own poll, which found that the party would maintain its 10 seats. Faction head Roy Folkman said that accomplishment was impressive considering that the public was currently focused on security, while his party concentrates on socioeconomic issues.
Yisrael Beytenu would rise from six seats to eight, according to the poll. The predominantly Arab Joint List would maintain its 13 Knesset seats.
The left-wing Meretz party would barely pass the electoral threshold (3.25 percent) and sneak into parliament with its current five seats.
Liberman told Channel 2 on Saturday night that he expected his party’s support to continue to rise, due to Netanyahu’s failure in his fight against terrorism and his efforts to improve Israel’s image internationally, as well as the government’s lack of success in lowering housing prices. Asked whether his party would run together with another party in the next election, Liberman said he expected Yisrael Beytenu to run independently.
The Likud replacing Netanyahu with another leader would not change Yisrael Beytenu’s plans, Liberman said.
If Yisrael Beytenu would not join the parties in the current coalition in the next government, the Likud could have a difficult time forming the next coalition. UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman made this more problematic last week by saying that his party would never sit in the same government as Yesh Atid.
But Shas has not made that promise, nor has Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid ruled out serving in a coalition with Shas.
Lapid has made an effort over the past several months to reach out to haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
He even agreed over the weekend to attend a Shabbat meal in Bnei Brak, accepting an invitation from new Shas MK Yigal Gueta.
Ariel Zilber contributed to this report.