Netanyahu’s Likud Party the most popular with six weeks to elections, left-wing Meretz Party might be shut out of Knesset.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
With six weeks left to Israel’s March 23 national election, a poll by Israel’s Channel 11 news released on Tuesday showed for the first time during the election campaign that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strengthening.
The results of the latest poll showed that if the election had taken place now, Netanyahu could theoretically form a right-wing coalition government with a 62-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
The poll showed that Netanyahu’s Likud Party would receive 29 seats; the centrist Yesh Atid Party, 18 seats; the New Hope Party led by Likud breakaway Gideon Saar, 14; the right-wing Yemina Party, 13; the Arab Joint List. 9; ultra-Orthodox Shas party with 8 and United Torah Judaism, 7; the revived left-wing Labor Party, 7; nationalist Yisrael Beitenu Party, 6; right-wing Religious Zionism, 5; and Blue and White, led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, with only 4 seats – plummeting from the 33 seats Gantz won in the previous March 2020 election.
Under Israel’s proportional representation system, parties must win at least 3.25% of the popular vote to get into the Knesset, where seats are divided according to the percentage of votes they received. Thus, a party that gets 10% of the popular vote would get 12 seats in parliament.
The block allied with Netanyahu’s Likud would have 49 seats, including his traditional coalition partners Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism. While Yemina leader Naftali Bennett has harshly criticized Netanyahu’s performance and refused last year to join his coalition government, Bennett said earlier this week he is open to working with anyone and his potential 13 seats would, if the election had taken place this week, give Netanyahu the majority needed to form a government.
Asked who they think is most qualified to lead the country, 38% of respondents said Netanyahu while 33% said Saar – who in December bolted from the Likud to form the right-wing New Hope to challenge Netanyahu – with the rest saying neither was suitable. When compared to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, 45% chose Netanyahu and only 28% said Lapid.
According to the poll, several veteran parties would fail to gain enough votes and would be shut out of the Knesset, including the left-wing Meretz Party and the Islamist Ra’am Party that split off from the Joint List. Meretz has been a fixture in the Knesset since it was formed in 1992 with the merger of three small left-leaning parties.
The Ra’am, the acronym for the United Arab List, is the political wing associated with the one of the Islamist movements in Israel and has been in the Knesset since 1996, but ran into opposition recently for cooperating with Netanyahu.