Election Polls: 6-14 Seats for Bennett and Shaked's New Right-wing Party, Labor Party Crashes

36% of respondents say they prefer Netanyahu as prime minister compared to 29% who chose former army chief Benny Gantz ■ Leaderless, Habayit Hayehudi fails to cross electoral threshold, two polls show

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked launch their new political party, Tel Aviv, Israel, December 29, 2018.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

The new party launched by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked would receive between six and 14 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, according to polls released by the Israel Television News Company, Channel 10 News and Israel's public broadcaster on Sunday evening.

The results came 24 hours after Bennett and Shaked announced they will leave the right-wing religious party Habayit Hayehudi to co-chair Hayamin Hehadash, the New Right, ahead of the April 9 election. Habayit Hayehudi, still leaderless, would fail to cross the electoral threshold of four seats, according to two of the polls.

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Those surveyed by the Israel Television News Company were also asked who they prefer as prime minister: Benjamin Netanyahu or former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz, who launched his own political party, Hosen L'Yisrael (resilience for Israel) last week. Thirty-six percent of the respondents said they prefer Netanyahu, while 29 percent chose Gantz. 

The polls further showed that Netanyahu's Likud would win the election were it held today with 27 to 31 seats. Gantz's party would come in second with 14 or 15 seats, two of the polls said, while the third showed Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid finishing second with 16 seats. Zionist Union, which includes Avi Gabbay's Labor, continued to crash in the polls, winning only eight to nine seats.

>> Eyeing end of Netanyahu era, Bennett and Shaked are ditching the settlers | Analysis ■ Political drama: Senior Israeli ministers launch new right-wing party ■ Israel's elections will be the most hateful and divisive yet | Analysis 

Full results

Israel Television News Company

Likud: 28
Hosen L'Yisrael: 14
Joint List: 12
Yesh Atid: 12
Zionist Union: 9
United Torah Judaism: 7
Hayamin Hehadash: 6
Kulanu: 6
Shas: 6
Meretz: 6
Gesher: 5
Yisrael Beiteinu: 5
Habayit Hayehudi: 4

Channel 10 News

Likud: 31
Hosen L'Yisrael: 15
Joint List: 13
Yesh Atid: 12
Hayamin Hehadash: 8
Zionist Union: 8
United Torah Judaism: 7
Kulanu: 6
Yisrael Beiteinu: 5
Gesher: 5
Shas: 5
Meretz: 5

Israel's public broadcaster

Likud: 27
Yesh Atid: 16
Hayamin Hehadash: 14
Hosen L'Yisrael: 13
Joint List: 12
Zionist Union: 9
United Torah Judaism: 7
Kulanu: 7
Meretz: 6
Gesher: 5
Shas: 4

Far-right activist courts Habayit Hayehudi 

Far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir called on members of Habayit Hayehudi party to join forces on Saturday, after ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked announce they were quitting their right-wing party to form a new outfit ahead of the April 9 election.

Ben Gvir, a senior member of Otzma Yehudit, which had failed to pass the electoral threshold in recent elections, targeted Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich, both members of Tkuma, an ultra-nationalist religious party that merged with the National Religious Party, also known as Mafdal, to form Habayit Hayehudi in 2013. 

Referring to the name of Bennett and Shaked's newly announced party, Hayamin Hehadash, Otzma Yehudit said on Saturday "'The New Right' has nothing new about it. Bennett’s attempt to shirk responsibility over a government that talked right-wing but walked left-wing is pathetic."

Despite Ben Gvir's calls, Tkuma members have said they wouldn't split from Habayit Hayehudi. In a statement, they said they would continue cooperating with Habayit Hayehudi, as well as "other forces," in order to "lead a large, unified list that would express the values of religious Zionism and the national camp." Tkuma leader, minister Ariel, has called to establish "a strong right-wing list."

Otzma Yehudit, formerly Otzma Leyisrael, is also negotiating with former minister Eli Yishai, who split from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in 2014. They have joined forces ahead of the 2015 election, but failed to secure enough votes to pass the electoral threshold. Another far-right party, Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut, is negotiating but is considered unlikely to join such a union. (Yotam Berger)

Overnight discussion on party Bennett left behind

Senior Habayit Hayehudi officials met overnight Saturday to discuss the steps ahead. One of the participants in the meeting, held in the home of prominent religious-Zionist Rabbi Haim Drukman in southern Israel, told Haaretz that most attendees, including the party's remaining lawmakers, were surprised by Bennet and Shaked's announcement and hadn't been informed of it in advance.

He said the meeting concluded with an agreement between Habayit Hayehudi and Tkuma officials to carry on with a joint Knesset list. The participants favorably discussed joining forces with "other [political] religious-Zionist forces", but the party has yet to announce any formal decision.

Party director Nir Orbach, who congratulated Bennett and Shaked on their move, announced on Sunday the establishment of "a special team to accelerate the negotiations" with Tkuma officials, which would convene after both factions elect new leaders.

Rabbi Drukman has urged his followers not to give their votes to Hayamin Hehadash. "I call upon the religious-Zionist public to elect the religious Zionism's list, of which there is only one – Habayit Hayehudi with Tkuma." (Yotam Berger)

Knesset panel approves split

A Knesset panel formally approved on Sunday Bennett and Shaked's request to split from Habayit Hayehudi, together with MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.

The new party took over a registered but inactive party, set up by former minister Yosef Paritzky in 2006, in order to be eligible for funding, which according to the Knesset's legal Eyal Yinon a party founded just before an election isn't. The new party is also exempt from former debts.

The party, Tzalash – a Hebrew acronym for Zionism, liberalism and equality – had been purchased from Paritzky by former political adviser attorney Amihai Weinberger. The two hadn't known each other before and Paritzky hadn't been made aware of the reason for purchasing the party. (Jonathan Lis)

Protest leader launches Knesset bid

Meanwhile, left-wing activist Eldad Yaniv announced on Saturday he was launching a new political party, called "The Protest Movement for State Leadership." Yaniv had failed to pass the electoral threshold with his Eretz Hadasha party in the 2013 polls, but he told Haaretz he is confident in his current Knesset bid. "This time we're going to win," he said.

Former member of the Zionist Union who had worked closely with former prime minister Ehud Barak, Yaniv is mostly known in recent years for his involvement in anti-corruption protests. He has teamed up with former Shin Bet official Gonen Ben Yitzhak, also involved in anti-corruption and cost-of-living protests, social activist Dina Dayan, an ultra-Orthodox woman who lost a 2017 bid to head the Labor party, and others.

Yaniv announced his new party on Twitter, saying it was established "because we fought in the streets for two years. Because we love this country. Because all old, corrupt politicians must go home. Because the time has come for new, real people to lead the country." He vowed to "fix what's been broken," adding: "You know we're the only ones that can be trusted." (Jonathan Lis and Chaim Levinson)

Habayit Hayehudi director Nir Orbach (R), Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and MK Moti Yogev at Rabbi Haim Drukman's house in southern Israel, December 30 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz