Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks to supporters, following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s election, at his Likud Party’s headquarters, in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 3, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
A new poll rocked the Israeli political establishment on Tuesday, showing that support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party appeared to be cratering, while his longtime rival for the hearts and minds of rightists, Yamina chief Naftali Bennett, was surging.
According to the poll, conducted by Midgam for Israel’s Channel 12, if elections were held today, Likud would receive 26 Knesset seats, while Bennett’s Yamina — positioned to Likud’s right — would take 23.
Behind them would be centrist Yesh Atid-Telem, with 18 seats; followed by the largely-Arab Joint List party with 15 seats.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s center-left Blue and White, a member of the current governing coalition, would receive only nine seats; as would the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party Shas.
Secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu would receive eight seats, Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism seven, and left-wing Meretz only five, barely crossing the electoral threshold.
Regarding the party blocs necessary to form a coalition, the poll found the right had 49 seats, the religious 16 and the center-left 32. The Joint List has always refrained from joining coalitions with Zionist parties, and Yisrael Beiteinu remains a wild card, with its leader Avigdor Lieberman giving little indication of which bloc he would be willing to partner with.
The poll also showed that Israelis seemed to desire a change of government. A full 49% said they wanted elections to be held soon, while only 30% said they wanted the current government to stay in power. Some 21% said they did not know.
Israel has seen widespread street protests in recent weeks over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Netanyahu’s popularity has also been dented by the corruption charges for which he is currently on trial.