What happened: For the first time in several months the Likud has taken a lead over Blue and White in the polls ahead of next week’s elections.
- A Channel 13 News poll conducted yesterday found that the Likud is predicted to stay on 33 seats whilst Blue and White will lose 4 seats and end up with 32. The Joint List will be the third largest part with 14 seats, followed by Labour-Gesher-Meretz on 10, Shas on 8, Yisrael Beiteinu on 8, Yamina on 8 and UTJ on 7.
- The result mirrors two other polls that were published the evening before by Hahadashot and Kan. All three polls showed that while the Likud had pulled ahead of Blue and White as the front-runner in the election, neither political bloc had a 61-seat majority.
- The fall of Blue and White in the polls comes after acting State Attorney Dan Eldad’s sudden decision last week to open a full criminal probe into a company led by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Whilst Gantz is not suspected of any wrongdoing, the company he led, called Fifth Dimension, is being investigated for misleading the police in order to secure a lucrative contract with the Israel Police. Gantz became chairman of the Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity company in 2015 but the firm went bankrupt in 2018.
- Blue and White’s Yair Lapid responded to the unflattering polls by writing on Twitter: “Yesterday’s polls aren’t a warning sign, they’re a siren. If [Netanyahu] Bibi wins, we’ll get four years of declining opposition, which will be violently silenced while Israeli democracy is destroyed. The attorney general will be fired, the override clause will dismantle the Supreme Court, the French bill will be passed, and that will be the end. That’s the plan. Bibi doesn’t have another one. He never did. Now is the time to wake up.”
Context: Since the turn of the year, Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pulled out all the stops in order to prevent Blue and White from appearing to run away with the election.
- In late January he travelled to the White House to unveil US President Trump’s plan for Israel and the Palestinians. He then solicited the release of Israeli Naama Issachar who had been convicted of drug smuggling in Russia. He then promised to bring 400 Falash Mura (Ethiopian Jews) to Israel three weeks before the election despite some community members waiting many years to immigrate to Israel.
- Yesterday Gantz described Netanyahu as Turkish President “Erdogan”. Gantz wrote on Twitter: “Turkey is now here. Netanyahu this morning exposed his true intention—to evade trial after the elections. He has no boundaries. It’s either Blue and White or Erdogan who is hunkering down.”
- The Israel Lands Authority have issued tenders for the construction of 1,077 housing units in the Jewish neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem, breaking a freeze on settlement building in East Jerusalem. The plan for Givat Hamatos was approved in 2014 but was delayed because of opposition from the Obama administration.
- Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, who also holds the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio, praised the issuing of the tenders and said a new neighbourhood in Jerusalem, “in a strategic place in the south of the city, is turning into a reality. A determined struggle of many years has brought results.”
- Yesterday Netanyahu travelled to Ariel and toured the area with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and several US administration officials who arrived in Israel to work on the “joint mapping work” that is required by the Trump plan in order to demarcate the boundary line in the West Bank.
Looking ahead: The change in polling figures indicates a change in momentum between Likud and Blue and White. However, the polls are liable to reverse after considering the last two days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip to southern Israel. As it currently stands, no bloc is predicted to win the 61-seat majority to form a government. However, writing in Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer notes that Likud and Blue and White only need to swing 50,000 votes in order to build a workable coalition. This may depend on which party succeeds in convincing enough of its supporters in their strongholds to vote this Monday.