Poll results worry Netanyahu

Poll results worry Netanyahu
3 min read
11 March, 2015
Reports showing Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party is dragging in the polls raises the prospect of the centre-left Zionist Union party winning the upcoming election.
Thousands rally against Netanyahu in Rabin on 7 March [Getty]
For the first time since the race began, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wing camp appear less confident of an election victory and of Netanyahu's ability to form the next government.

Elections for the Knesset, Israel's parliament, will be held on 17 March 2015.

Two separate opinion polls conducted by Channel 2 and the Knesset Channel broadcast on 10 March, showed that the Zionist Union party under Isaac Herzog is leading over the Likud Party under Netanyahu.

According to the Channel 2 poll, Likud will win 21 seats and the Zionist Union 25. The Knesset Channel poll suggested Likud would win 21 and the Zionist Union 24.

The results prompted Netanyahu to express concerns yesterday that the government might fall into the hands of the left under Herzog and Tzipi Livini, if the Zionist Union continues to lead in the polls. 

The prime minister is believed to be particularly concerned this could open the door to small parties (especially Yesh Atid under Yair Lapid) supporting Herzog in forming a new government.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri said in an interview with Haaretz this morning he is not ruling out the option of joining a Herzog-led government.

     Netanyahu said there was an international campaign pumping tens of millions of dollars into the Israeli elections to change the regime.

Despite the Israeli media's dramatic portrayal of the situation yesterday as the Zionist Union led the polls, and because these are parliamentary not presidential elections, the biggest coalition in parliament will form the next government.

This means the chances of Herzog forming the next government are slim, especially since Shas and Yesh Atid refuse to join a government supported by the Joint List of Arab parties.

Meanwhile, according to the two polls, the distribution of seats between the right-wing and left-wing camps in Israel shows that the left,  led by Herzog, will get only 43 seats.

If Yesh Atid (expected to win 12 or 13 seats) and Shas (seven seats predicted) support Herzog, it will lead to the formation of a minority government that relies on Arab votes abroad.

Israeli parties have, however, rejected such an arrangement since the experience of the Rabin government in 1993.

In the meantime, Netanyahu continues to warn against a Zionist Union victory. Adopting a conspiratorial tone, he has claimed there was an international campaign pumping tens of millions of dollars into the Israeli elections to change the regime and oust Likud.

Netanyahu is hoping the right-wing voting pattern will still change. According to the Channel 2 poll, only 30 percent of Kulanu supporters and 50 percent of Naftali Bennet's Habayit Hayehudi supporters are firmly decided.

This still gives Netanyahu a chance to rein in a large right-wing bloc that remain officially 'undecided'.

In the next few days, there will be strong competition for the votes of the right-wing, as Netanyahu attempts to boost his party as the only guarantee for a right-wing government.

The goal appears also to forestall any scenario that might tempt parties such as Atid, Kulanu or the Haredi Shas Movement to have the president of the state designate Herzog as the next head of government.

This article is an edited translation
from our Arabic edition.