On Tuesday, Israel will be going to elections for the second time this year, since the failure to create a government in the wake of the April elections.
Today, Friday, is the last day for polls to be published. The law prohibits polls from the end of the last Friday before elections.
Although the major rival parties Likud and Kahol Lavan (Blue White) have been more or less even in the recent months (around 30-32 seats each), yesterday’s poll published in Maariv gives Likud a considerable advantage over Blue White (36 to 32). This would be important in relation to who would get a first try at forming a government – by this, it would certainly be Netanyahu. A majority coalition would have to have more than 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
This latest poll measured the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) just under the threshold of 4 seats, but in various polls they have been hovering above that in the past week after many weeks where they polled below the threshold. Otzma refused to join the right party union Yamina (Rightward) led by Ayelet Shaked, which got together at the end of July, because of bad blood from the recent elections.
Yamina, which joins the earlier United Right Wing Parties (URWP) and New Right, has been polling great, around 10 seats, since Ayelet Shaked was chosen to lead this block.
When you count Likud with 36, Yamina with 10, and the religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism with 15 between them (that has been rather consistent), you can actually count to 61. If Otzma does make it above the threshold after all, we are talking about an even more solid 65.
This would no doubt be Netanyahu’s dream scenario, and it would be a sweet revenge against Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman has basically become the kingmaker since the last elections, where he prevented the coalition formation by insisting on tougher military draft measures for the ultra-orthodox, which the religious parties could not accept. Netanyahu has directly blamed Lieberman for this failure. That move gave Lieberman more power, and his party Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) came to poll double as well as before, with about 10 seats. It has been widely considered that he would be kingmaker also in the coming elections, forcing a center-right government without religious parties, which was his condition. But if this latest scenario comes true, then Netanyahu might be able to have his cake without Lieberman, and this would be very significant for Netanyahu. This will improve his possibilities to get immunity for his corruption charges, a hearing about these is scheduled for two weeks after the elections. In any case Netanyahu would have greater leverage on Lieberman, even if Lieberman is offered a place in a right-wing government with religious parties. This will leave Lieberman in an embarrassing place, because his earlier insistence would rule out such a partnership, and it would leave him out of a right government although he is further right than Netanyahu.
A left government is not even something to talk about in Israel these days, it can’t happen – Blue White doesn’t want the parties representing Palestinians – just forget it. The only realistic scenario talked about recently was that center-right unity government. But Netanyahu would certainly want to avoid that if possible, and it may well become possible.
The recent poll also shows the Labor-Gesher party at just 4 seats, and there’s a chance it will go into oblivion. The Democratic Union, which is the merger of the leftist Meretz, Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel Party and Labor defector Stav Shafir, is polled at about 5 seats. They might well make it through, but their chances of governing are rather non-existent.
Netanyahu has recently promised to annex large swaths of the Palestinian occupied West Bank if elected. Although 40 percent do not believe he will make good on it, it seems to have had an effect. Gantz has no real antidote to such a proclamation. Gantz has also vowed that the Jordan Valley – the area Netanyahu promised to annex first – would remain in Israel’s control forever.
Thus, there seems to be a good likelihood that Netanyahu will continue to be the face of Israel for the foreseeable future.