A poll released by Channel 12 News Tuesday shows the party led by former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa'ar surging ahead to become Israel's second largest party, were elections held now.
The party led by Sa'ar, a rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would garner 21 seats, trailing Likud by just six seats. This represents an increase of five seats since Channel 12's previous poll last week, which awarded the new party 16 seats. If Sa'ar keeps his promise not to join a Netanyahu government, it would be difficult for the prime minister to form a coalition with the current poll numbers.
The poll also gave Likud one more seat than it gained in the previous poll, and Naftali Bennett's far-right party Yamina dropping from 18 seats to 13.
Earlier Tuesday, Likud MK and coronavirus committee chair Yifat Shasha-Biton, who has come in for criticism for her independence in the party in the past, announced that she is joining Sa'ar's party. Shasha-Biton tweeted a photo of the two of them together, with the caption: “We’re on our way.”
Sa'ar pledged earlier this week not to join a government led by Netanyahu, against whom he ran in a party primary earlier this year. "Whoever wants Netanyahu to continue to be prime minister should not vote for me because I will under no circumstances support him," he said, adding that if Netanyahu wins the next election, Sa'ar will sit in the opposition.
Last week, lawmakers Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser from the Derech Eretz faction of Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan also said they would be joining Sa’ar in the next election and that they support his candidacy for prime minister.
The parliamentary bill to dissolve the Knesset and return to the polls passed a preliminary vote earlier this month, and last week the Knesset House Committee approved it for a first vote. Two more votes are required after that to write it into law.
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The poll was conducted by the Midgam institute, led by Manu Geva. It surveyed a representative sample of the Israeli population above the age of 18 and included 501 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent.