Channel Two published Tuesday night the first election poll in five days and while being a bit flawed, it still contains a number of interesting indicators. The poll was carried out by Panels Politics and these are the results:
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Likud-Yisrael Beitenu 36
Yesh Atid 15
Habayit Hayehudi-National Union 12
United Torah Judaism 5
Am Shalem 3
The most striking detail in the poll is the decline in the fortunes of the Likud-Beitenu alliance. The two parties currently have 42 MKs (and in most of the polls before their link-up they were doing even better). So far together they are losing six seats, nearly 15 percent of their total combined support.
Where are these votes going? Most obviously to the other alliance on the right, that of Habayit Hayehudi and National Union, which at 12 MKs are up five from their current combined total. Whether this is due more to the rejection by religious Likud voters of the pact with Lieberman or to the attraction of Habayit Hayehudi's new young leader Naftali Bennett is impossible to say.
The shift between the alliances shouldn't jeopardize Netanyahu's coalition. He will still remain the leader of the right-wing-religious bloc which continues to enjoy a majority, but the poll also contains some troubling news for the prime minister and his partners.
The natural members of the bloc total in this poll 63 MKs, a majority albeit a smaller one than they have received in any poll in the last four years, normally in the 66-68 region. But if Likud's defectors have remained on the right, who lost the bloc's edge?
Well, for a start, Shas is suspiciously low in this poll, down by one MK to 10. This seems hardly likely now that the party has its mojo back in the shape of Aryeh Deri returned from political exile. This indicates at least one flaw in this poll (more of those in a moment) though Shas has always been impossible to poll. But if Shas is being underestimated, what then of its new rival, Am Shalem, lead by Shas renegade MK Chaim Amsellem? Could the liberal-minded rabbi's nascent party become this season's sympathy vote? If the poll is anything to go by (and it may not be), Amsellem could emerge a key power broker, to Shas' chagrin.
But Shas' poor showing is not the only caveat in this poll. The two failing centrist parties, Kadima (the largest party in the current Knesset) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Atzmaut, are both on two MKs. In recent days I have heard differing opinions on whether it is at all possible for a party to enter the Knesset with only two seats, but all agree that with the electoral threshold standing at two percent, it is extremely unlikely for a party to get in with fewer than three seats. In other words, both Kadima and Atzmaut in this poll remain outside the Knesset and their four seats are distributed elsewhere. Where would they go? It is impossible to say, perhaps to the Arab parties. Which leads us to another sore point in this poll.
The three Arab parties currently control 11 seats but in this poll they receive only nine – highly unlikely since their proportion in the population hasn't gone down.
This could be explained by the corresponding increase in Meretz's MKs, from three to five, especially as the party's convention just selected Kafr Qasem accountant Issawi Frej for the fifth slot on its list. But since the poll was, at least in part, conducted before Frej's selection, that is too neat an explanation and it seems much more likely that this poll, like so many others, has failed to take Israeli Arabs properly into account. It doesn't bode well for its general accuracy.
For once, Netanyahu is probably hoping that the Arabs are doing better than reported.