Haaretz Poll: A Livni-Olmert-Lapid 'Super-party' Would Outscore Likud

If the center and the left together could garner 61 seats, it would deprive Netanyahu of the ability to form a majority government.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

A new centrist party formed by Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid would win more seats in the next Knesset than the Likud, according to a new Haaretz poll. Were such a party to be formed, it would grab 25 seats, compared to Likud's 24. However, the survey also indicates that, whatever its composition, a right-wing bloc would not lose its Knesset majority.

This picture emerges as three sidelined politicians - Olmert, Livni and Aryeh Deri - weigh their own political futures amid the shake-up of the political map, with arrivals and departures from the scene on a daily basis.

According to the poll, even if former Prime Minister Olmert and former Kadima leader Livni join forces, or if Livni instead links up with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, they would face a right-wing bloc, a bloc of "natural partners," that would retain its majority - meaning that Benjamin Netanyahu would remain prime minister after the January 22 elections. In a worst-case scenario from his perspective, he would just have to sweat a little more before reaching the finish line.

These are the conclusions that can be drawn from a special poll conducted on Tuesday for Haaretz by public-opinion company Dialog under the supervision of Tel Aviv University statistics professor Camil Fuchs.

The survey examined three possible scenarios regarding the composition of the next Knesset. The first involves no change in the constellation of political forces in parliament following the election. The second has Livni joining forces with Yacimovich in advance of the election, and the third has Olmert, who as prime minister headed Kadima, forming a new centrist party with Kadima, Livni and Yair Lapid's new Yesh Atid party. Under that third scenario, Aryeh Deri would resume his position as head of Shas, jointly with Ariel Atias and current party chairman (at least as these words are being written ), Eli Yishai.

In the first case, in which the composition of political parties remains as it is today, the data show that the right wing would garner a 65-seat majority against a left-wing bloc of 55 seats. The results reveal that the departure of popular Likud minister Moshe Kahlon from the political scene, announced earlier this week, has in no way hurt his party's election prospects. For its part, the Labor Party is demonstrating continued stability as the second largest party, while any shift among the other parties is minor.

In the second scenario, in which Livni and Labor's Yacimovich join forces, something changes in the battle among the political blocs. The right would lose two seats that would shift to the left, leaving the right with 63 seats and the left with 57. It turns out that Livni herself is the one who would manage to create that mini-shift and lure two seats to the Labor Party, after which Labor would only trail Likud by three seats.

The third scenario, involving the establishment of a new centrist party, is the most fascinating of all. Here, too, despite all the drama, the right-wing bloc would not lose its Knesset majority, but its composition would change. Tuesday's survey indicates it would still get 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset - but the new Olmert-Livni-Lapid party would grab 25 seats compared to Likud's 24. Deri would attract an additional three valuable seats to Shas, giving it 14 Knesset members.

Apparently Deri is the real tiebreaker, and he could take his 14 seats, cross the aisle and give Olmert the majority he would need to form a government, out of his friendship with the former prime minister or out of friendship with others like Livni. But such a scenario is a big "if." Deri would not act against Shas' electoral base, which is overwhelmingly right wing. He would not make a move so contrary to his supporters' DNA, one that runs counter to Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the party's rabbinical leadership.

If the center and the left together could garner 61 seats, this would deprive Netanyahu of the ability to form a majority government and be a totally different story. Then Deri and Shas' leadership would show more flexibility. But that's not where things are, and it's unlikely they will ever be, for one simple reason. The minute the "soft" Likudniks on the left of the party, who might consider voting for a centrist Olmert-Livni slate, realize they would then be handing the government over to the left, they would come running back to their Likud home, asking themselves how they could have considered such a thing.

Among the other findings of this week's poll, Lapid's Yesh Atid party appears to be stuck around 10 seats, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Atzmaut party would not garner the minimum two percent it would need to get into the next Knesset at all.

And speaking of former prime ministers, when the poll respondents were asked how they would vote if President Shimon Peres were to head a large, united center-left bloc, about 18 percent said they would definitely vote for his party, and another 19 percent said they "might" vote for a Peres-led ticket. If even half of those considering it gave him their support, Peres would head a faction of about 32 seats - more than any party has today.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) at a government meeting in 2008.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky
Dialog poll for Haaretz Credit: Haaretz

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