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June 27, 2019 12:36 pm

With Ehud Barak Back in Politics, New Poll Shows Israel’s Center-Left Bloc Could Eke Out Electoral Victory

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 26, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Corinna Kern.

Following Wednesday’s announcement by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that he would return to politics as head of a new party, a poll showed that he could help the center-left win a narrow victory in the upcoming September elections.

Barak swept back into politics on Wednesday with a strong criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying, “This is not time to be on the fence. … Netanyahu’s regime, with its radical messianic zealots and its corrupt leadership must be toppled.”

The new poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 13 showed that with Barak in the running, a center-left bloc led by the Blue and White party could win 61 seats in the Knesset, one seat more than required for a majority.

The right-wing bloc — without Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who this month prevented Netanyahu from forming a right-wing government — would win 52 seats. Lieberman has said he will not sit in a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties without concessions on the issue of military enlistment, which the religious parties have so far been unwilling to make.

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The poll showed that Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud party would tie at 32 seats apiece. The Arab Joint List would win 12. Yisrael Beiteinu would take seven. And Barak’s new party would win six, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties would also take six seats apiece.

The left-wing Meretz and center-left Labor parties would take six and five seats respectively.

To the right of Likud, former Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party would win four seats, as would the national-religious United Right party.

Lieberman, who may once again play the kingmaker or unmaker in coalition talks, has said that he wants a unity government led by Likud and Blue and White, excluding the religious parties. Blue and White co-leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid have both said that they would not sit in government with Netanyahu, but might do so with a different Likud leader.

Ironically, the Channel 13 poll also showed that Israelis did not want new elections at all. Only 35 percent supported the elections, while 48 percent said they wanted to see them cancelled. Seventeen percent said they did not know.

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