As Netanyahu Challenger Sa'ar Joins Fray, Election Polls Find PM Won't Be Able to Form Coalition

Gideon Sa'ar's new party would block Netanyahu's bloc from the Knesset majority he needs in a potential election, and if he joins forces with far-right Yamina, their slate would eclipse Likud

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MK Gideon Sa'ar in the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 21, 2020.
MK Gideon Sa'ar in the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 21, 2020.Credit: Adina Wolman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office

The new party announced by Gideon Sa'ar, a rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could block the premier from forming a government if Israelis return to the polls, according to three public opinion polls published on Wednesday.

Channel 12, Channel 13 and Kan public broadcaster polls are showing that Sa'ar's party, announced Tuesday night, would gain 15-18 seats, rocketing above center-left Yesh Atid and Kahol Lavan and competing with the far-right Yamina.

With the ascendance of the new right-wing, anti-Netanyahu party, the Channel 13 poll shows that the likely alliance of Netanyahu, Bennett and the ultra-Orthodox parties would have 58 of the Knesset's 120 seats; it would need a complete majority to form a government.

According to Channel 12, Sa'ar's party would take four seats from Likud, four from Kahol Lavan, three from Yamina, two from Yesh Atid and one from Yisrael Beiteinu.

If former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton join Sa'ar, their party would have 22 seats to Likud's 26. If Sa'ar joins with Naftali Bennett's Yamina, their joint slate would gain 32 mandates, overtaking Likud.

The channels also surveyed Israelis on who they believe is most fit to lead. Less than 40 percent of Israelis believe that Netanyahu is most fit to lead; he gained 40% from Kan respondents, 31 percent from Channel 13 and 29 percent from Channel 12. Other candidates are further behind, but Sa'ar comes in second place. Channels 12 and 13 give Sa'ar 16 percent; Kan says 32 percent see him as most fit to lead.  

In all three polls, Labor-Gesher and Habayit Hayehudi failed to cross the electoral threshold.

The Knesset voted to dissolve itself in a preliminary vote last week, and if the bill passes two more readings, Israelis will head to the polls for the fourth time in roughly two years.

On Tuesday, the two Knesset members of Derech Eretz, a right-wing faction that broke off from Kahol Lavan, announced that they would be joining Sa'ar's new party.  

Lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Handel said in a press conference that Israel deserves "a right-wing leadership whose self-identification is love of the country and not hatred of the other. Likud has been confused over the past few years. Gideon isn't."

Channel 12's poll was conducted online and via telephone in cooperation with Manu Geva and Midgam along with iPanel, and surveyed a representative pool of 502 Israelis aged 18 and up. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent. Channel 13 surveyed 1,106 Israelis; 1,003 Jews and 103 others. The margin of error is 3.5 percent. Kan conducted their poll via the internet.

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