New polls shows strength of post-Netanyahu Likud

What happened: A new Israeli poll reveals that Likud would lose two seats in the next election if Benjamin Netanyahu were to be replaced as Likud leader by Gideon Saar.

  • According to polling by the Smith Consulting polling institute, Likud under Netanyahu would win 33 seats and the right-wing bloc would win 54 seats. Under Gideon Saar Likud would receive 31 seats but the right-wing bloc would increase to 56 seats. Blue and White would win 35 seats against Netanyahu or Saar.
  • An Israel Hayom poll found that the gap between a Likud led by Netanyahu and Saar was slightly larger, with Netanyahu receiving 33 seats and Saar 28 seats. Blue and White would win 35 seats against Netanyahu and 33 against Saar. The poll also said that Netanyahu was a more suitable candidate for prime minister than Gantz, with 45 per cent against 39 per cent. The poll found that if elections were held today, neither the right-wing bloc nor the centre-left-Arab bloc would have a majority 61 seats, leaving Israel in the same political stalemate.
  • Channel 12 News reported yesterday that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would consider standing as Likud leader if the party held a leadership contest. The report said Edelstein has spent the last few days laying the groundwork for a potential leadership run. So far, only Saar has officially announced his intention to stand in any leadership primary. Edelstein’s office has denied the report.

Context: Israel is 12 days away from the Knesset automatically dissolving and triggering an unprecedented third election in March 2020.

  • After Netanyahu and Gantz both failed to form a government following the 17 September election, the Knesset was given 21 days to try and agree to another candidate, and there is speculation that Saar or Edelstein are using the period to gather the support of 61 MKs and find a way to form a coalition.
  • Channel 13 News reported last night that the Likud made its latest offer to Blue and White for Netanyahu to serve as prime minister for 3-4 months before stepping aside to allow another Likud leader to be Prime Minister. The report said Netanyahu would not continue to serve in the government, but would remain a Knesset member. In the proposed deal, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would become Prime Minister after two years.
  • Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday that had Prime Minister Netanyahu put more pressure on the ultra-orthodox to be flexibile on religion and state issues, he could have joined a right-wing government alongside ultra-orthodox parties.

Looking ahead: The most likely political outcome in Israel is a third election. If that happens the focus will shift to the Likud leadership, whether and how they hold a leadership election and how many candidates stand, potentially splitting the anti-Netanyahu vote allowing him to win.

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