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July 3, 2019 4:18 pm

New Israeli Poll Shows Main Blocs Essentially Tied Ahead of Knesset Elections

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli lawmakers stand during the inauguration of the 21st Knesset. Photo: Haim Zah / GPO.

A new Israeli poll looking ahead to the September Knesset elections shows the right and center-left blocs essentially tied, with 56 and 55 seats respectively.

According to the survey published by the Israeli news site Mako, if the elections were held today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party would come first with 32 seats.

However, the centrist Blue and White party is close behind with 31 seats.

The Arab Joint List would come in third with 12 seats.

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Yisrael Beiteinu, whose leader Avigdor Lieberman prevented Netanyahu from forming a government last month, sparking new elections, would take nine seats, a gain from previous surveys.

The beleaguered Labor party, which just elected a new leader in Amir Peretz, also gained seats, rising from six to eight.

The ultra-Orthodox parties remained strong with seven seats for Shas and the same for United Torah Judaism.

On the far-right, the national-religious United Right party and former Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party each won five seats, according to the poll, while on the opposite extreme end of the political spectrum Meretz won four seats.

Two parties would not cross the threshold for entrance to the Knesset. Despite being launched with considerable fanfare, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s as-yet-unnamed list would receive only three percent of the vote, almost a point below the minimum required. The Zehut party, once touted as a potential kingmaker ahead of the last elections, would receive only 2.1 percent.

The results indicated that, in potential coalition negotiations, the right and center-left blocs were essentially tied. However, the situation is complicated by two factors: the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu.

The Arab parties are counted in the center-left bloc, but historically have refused to sit in government so as not to be seen as “collaborating” with Israeli rule over the West Bank and Gaza. Without the Joint List, the center-left would only have 43 seats, far below the 61 necessary to form a governing coalition.

Moreover, it is unclear which bloc Yisrael Beiteinu would join. While counted as a right-wing party, Lieberman has staked out positions opposed to Netanyahu on the issues of Israel’s policy toward Gaza and the military enlistment of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. He has expressed his preference for a national unity government that would include his party, Likud and Blue and White, thus shutting out the religious parties.

When asked which candidate was most suited to be prime minister, 40 percent of poll respondents chose Netanyahu, 30 percent Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and 21 percent neither, while nine percent said they did not know.

The elections will be held Sept. 17.

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