Israel Election: Polls Show Steep Labor Fall After Livni's Unceremonious Dismissal

According to new polls, Likud stays firm while center-left block takes a dive ■ Lawmakers divided after Labor leader Avi Gabbay's shocking move

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon making a speech at an agriculture conference in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon revealed on Wednesday the name of the new party he has launched after announcing last week that he is joining the country's election race.

Ya'alon's party is named Telem (an acronym in Hebrew for Tnua Leumit Mamlachtit, i.e., national state movement). "This is a day of celebration, an exciting day for the people of Israel, a day of hope coupled with immense responsibility for myself and my partners on this journey," the ex-defense chief stated.

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After the surprising announcement Tuesday by Labor leader Avi Gabbay that he was breaking up the partnership between the Labor party and Hatnuah party, new polls found that the Labor party would take seven to eight Knesset seats if elections were held today.

According to the polls, released Wednesday by the Israel Television News Company and Kan public television, Likud would take between 28 and 31 seats, Benny Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael would receive 12-14 seats, Yesh Atid would get 10-13, Joint List would stay with 12 seats, Hayamin Hehadash would get 6-9, while Livni's Hatnuah would receive 5 seats according to one poll but would not pass the 3.25 percent. If Livni joined Gantz, polls show their joint party would receive 15 seats.

According to the Israel Television News Company, 35 percent of Israelis would prefer Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister compared with 28 percent who would take Gantz. According to the public broadcaster, 40 percent prefer Netanyahu to 30 percent would prefer Gantz. Yair Lapid received only 17 percent according to the News Company and 24 percent according to the public broadcaster.

The full poll results are published below.

Last week it was reported that Ya'alon and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz are discussing the possibility of running together in the upcoming election, slated for April 9.

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The two are reportedly weighing the possibility of running for the Knesset under the same ticket with their two separate parties; Gantz announced last week that he was launching his own party, Hosen L'Yisrael.

A poll by the Israel Television News Company published last week indicated that the two would gain 16 seats in the Knesset if they ran together. However, after Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that they are breaking away from the Habayit Hayehudi Party and setting up their own outfit, Hayamin Hehadash, the chances that Gantz and Ya'alon would run together have decreased.

Sources from Gantz's party are under the impression that Shaked and Bennett's new party is posing a serious threat to Ya'alon.

Ever since he quit the Likud over two years ago, Ya'alon has been reiterating the message that he is open to forming different political partnerships. He got an offer from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to be number two on his roster, with a commitment for joint leadership. But the ex-defense minister is not interested in a second-in-command position, and that is why he pursued an independent party that he could lead.

In May 2016, Ya'alon resigned from the government and the Knesset over disputes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last week, after it was announced that Israel was headed for an election, Ya'alon declared that he was forming his own party and wrote on Twitter that he is calling for "connections, a merger of powers, in order to present an alternative for the country's leadership" and that he was "acting to promote this."

Labor chairman Avi Gabbay alongside Tzipi Livni when they first announced their merger, October 2018.
Meged Gozani

Speaking at a cultural event last week, the former defense minister said he would not enter a coalition headed by Netanyahu, but noted that he was not boycotting the Likud. He also confirmed reports that he was negotiating collaboration with Gantz.

'It didn't work': Zionist Union day after bombshell breakup

Also Wednesday, Israeli lawmakers addressed the surprising announcement Tuesday by Labor leader Avi Gabbay that he was breaking up the partnership between the Labor party and Hatnuah party.

MK Shelly Yacimovitch expressed her support of Labor chairman Gabbay. In an interview with Kan Radio, Yacimovitch said: "Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice, and I completely understand the moves that led Gabbay to take this step."

Gabbay announced Tuesday that he was nominating Yacimovitch to the role of opposition leader instead of Tzipi Livni.

Yacimonitch further stated that the merger between Hatnuah and Labor "didn't work."

"Not only did we not grow stronger as a result of this connection, we were actually weakened. Livni, who is a deserving person, was very much struggling to accept the fact that Gabbay is the chair of the Zionist Union and the chair of the Labor party, so she delegitimized him on a daily basis," Yacimovitch continued.

"The leader of a party," she added, "especially prior to an election, at one point cannot stand this anymore."

Yacimotich also revealed that she was not aware of Gabbay's intentions before he made them public at a press conference Tuesday. "I didn’t think it would happen, I thought he was just toying with the idea. I left his office not knowing that I was part of a very dramatic decision."

MK Yoel Hasson, who was the chair of the Zionist Union faction until Gabbay's move, firmly criticized Gabbay. Speaking to Kan Radio, Hasson said that Livni accepted Gabbay's leadership, but the latter "didn't want to team with anyone and kept making efforts to preserve his chair."

Gabbay announced that he was breaking up the Zionist Union during a faction meeting Tuesday, without updating Livni in advance. His bombshell announcement came after long tensions between the two. Gabbay later said that he "only ate shit from Livni."

Addressing Yacimovitch's appointment, Gabbay said he is "proud of Shelly, a wonderful Knesset member who is leading fierce battles in the Knesset and outside of it."

MK Itzik Shmuli has been named head of the faction instead of Hasson.  

Full poll results published by Israeli media Wednesday:

Israel Television News Company

Likud: 31
Hosen L'Yisrael: 12
Joint List: 12
Yesh Atid: 10
Labor: 8
United Torah Judaism: 7
Hayamin Hehadash: 6
Kulanu: 5
Hatnuah: 5
Shas: 5
Meretz: 6
Gesher: 5
Yisrael Beiteinu: 5
Habayit Hayehudi: 4

Israel's public broadcaster

Likud: 28
Hosen L'Yisrael: 14
Yesh Atid: 13
Joint List: 12
Hayamin Hehadash: 9
Labor: 7
United Torah Judaism: 7
Kulanu: 7
Meretz: 6
Gesher: 5
Yisrael Beiteinu: 5
Shas: 6

Habayit Hayehudi and Hatnuah do not pass the election threshold according to Israel's public broadcast.