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Israeli polls predict another stalemate

What happened: Final polls published in Israel today ahead of Monday’s General election predict another political stalemate with Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz expected to win the same number of seats. None of the polls are predicting the same result as the September election where Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party beat Likud winning 33 seats to Likud’s 32.

  • Maariv’s poll predicts that Blue and White will win 34 seats, Likud 34 seats, Joint List 13 seats, Shas 9 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 9 seats, Yamina 7 seats, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 7 seats. The centre-left bloc would have 56 seats, the right wing/ultra-orthodox bloc 57 seats and Yisrael Beitenu with 7 seats.
  • In Maariv’s second poll conducted by Likud pollster Rafi Smith Likud is predicted to win 35 seats, Blue and White 34 seats, Joint List 14 seats, Shas 9 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 8 seats, UTJ 7 seats, Yamina 7 seats and Yisrael Beiteinu 6 seats. The right-wing/ultra-orthodox bloc would have 58 seats and the centre-left bloc 56.
  • Israel Hayom’s poll predicts that Blue and White will win 33 seats, Likud 33 seats, Joint List 14 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 9 seats, Yamina 9 seats, Shas 8 seats, UTJ 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 7 seats. The centre-left bloc would have 56 seats, the right wing/ultra-orthodox bloc 57 seats and Yisrael Beitenu with 7 seats..
  • The Kan News poll predicts that the Likud will win 35 seats, Blue and White 34 seats, Joint List 14 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 8 seats, Shas 8 seats, UTJ 8 seats, Yamina 6 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 6 seats. The right-wing/ultra-orthodox bloc would have 58 seats and the centre-left bloc 56 seats.
  • In Israel Hayom’s poll asking who is more suitable to serve as prime minister? Benjamin Netanyahu is supported by 49 per cent and Benny Gantz 35 per cent.

Context: Voter apathy is a key concern for all parties who are working hard to encourage their base to come out and vote. There are also concerns that coronavirus quarantine and control measures could also reduce turnout in some areas.

Yediot Ahronot suggest 5 potential scenarios:

  • Right wing/ultra-orthodox victory. Despite the polls, the right wing and ultra-orthodox manage to reach a 61 seat majority that would allow Likud, Yamina, Shas, and UTJ, to form a government.
  • Defections lead to a majority. If one of blocs is able to reach close to 60 seats, they would be entice the necessary 2 or 3 seats from rebels in the rival camp.  However the paper notes; “these scenarios appear nearly impossible, but the political reality in Israel occasionally surpasses all imagination.”
  • Unity Government. “Perhaps the most realistic solution, but because of the bad blood between Netanyahu and Gantz, it has become less and less realistic.”
  • A minority government. Blue and White could form a government alongside Yisrael Beiteinu, Labour-Gesher-Meretz with outside support from the Joint List.  However Lieberman appeared to rule out this option earlier in the week.  According to the paper, “Gantz could form a temporary minority government to replace Netanyahu as prime minister and then later enlarge the government with either right wing parties or the Ultra- Orthodox. In wake of Netanyahu’s campaign (“Gantz has no government without Tibi”), Blue and White’s leaders declared that they would not form a minority government that relied on the Joint List. This means that the possibility of this happening is slim.”
  • Fourth elections. The parties may refuse to compromise. “Avigdor Liberman  promised that there would be no fourth election, but promises are one thing and actions are another. So far, nobody has been able to arrange the numbers in way that will make it possible to form a government.”
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu has generated significant momentum since late January: He launched the US plan for Israel and the Palestinians in Washington, secured the release of Israeli Naama Issachar who had been convicted of drug smuggling in Russia, began talks with Sudan about establishing diplomatic relations and promised to bring 400 Falash Mura (Ethiopian Jews) to Israel.
  • The campaign turned decidedly ugly this week as Netanyahu loyalists and his son Yair suggested that Iran was in possession of a video Gantz took of himself in a compromising sexual act. Benjamin Netanyahu has also repeatedly questioned Gantz’s fitness for office by questioning his mental health.

 

Looking ahead:

Voting will begin on Monday morning, the exit polls will be published at 22:00 on Monday night and by early Tuesday morning there will be a clear indication of whether Netanyahu or Gantz will be able to form a 61 seat majority coalition.