Likud campaigners have expressed concerns that supporters who decide not to vote in the upcoming election could bring its representation in the next Knesset down to a mere 18 seats.
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Recent polls show that the image of Likud chairman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a beating, and could keep voters from casting their vote for the right-wing party on March 17.
A source in Likud told Haaretz, “If surveys are now talking about 22-23 seats for Netanyahu, that could easily end up being only 18.”
According to the source, since 1999 Likud has ended up with between 10 percent and 30 percent fewer votes than predicted at the start of every election campaign.
However, the party believes that even if the Zionist Union garners significantly more votes than Likud, Netanyahu will still form the next government and try to get Zionist Union coleader Isaac Herzog to join him. This is despite vehement denials by Netanyahu in recent days, and statements that he would turn first to Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Habayit Hayehudi.
“Everything, of course, depends on how many votes each party gets. According to the polls, it now looks like Netanyahu will turn first to Herzog, [Kulanu chairman Moshe] Kahlon and the ultra-Orthodox parties,” one Likud MK said, adding, “Kahlon is almost a shoo-in to become the next finance minister if Netanyahu forms the government. First of all, because that is the price he will demand for joining the coalition. But also because Netanyahu wants to prevent an all-out war in Likud by the three people vying for the post – ministers Yisrael Katz, Gilad Erdan and Yuval Steinitz.”
Channel 10’s poll last week, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs, revealed a number of responses showing a decline in support for Netanyahu, and a gap between Netanyahu and Herzog of only five percent: 42 percent of the public support Netanyahu for prime minister, as opposed to 37 percent for Herzog. The previous survey showed 44 percent for Netanyahu and 36 percent for Herzog.
The poll also revealed a sharp decline in support for Likud by people who voted in the last election for the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu slate. In the previous survey, 52 percent of Likud voters in the previous election said they would vote for Likud again. This time, only 45 percent said they would vote Likud again.
According to the latest poll, respondents gave Zionist Union 23 Knesset seats and Likud only 21.
Herzog, meanwhile, published an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, criticizing Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the U.S. Congress. Herzog said the speech “will only undermine Israel’s ability to influence the critical issue of securing a genuine guarantee that Iran will never gain access to nuclear weaponry.”
Such an outcome, the Zionist Union coleader argued, “can be achieved only through a full and trusting dialogue with the American administration, based on broad bipartisan support.”