Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday his newly formed National Unity Party will work to prevent a sixth election cycle after Israel's November 1 vote – the country's fifth in fewer than four years – as public opinion polls show a slight rise in support for the party after former military chief Gadi Eisenkot joined it.
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Polls released Sunday by three major networks give the party between 12 and 14 out of 120 Knesset seats in the upcoming election, but in all three, no major political bloc has a clear path to a majority.
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Speaking alongside fellow party leader Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Eisenkot, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff who announced earlier on Sunday he decided to join them, Gantz said the party’s line of national unity “is the only way to avoid a sixth election cycle and form a stable and broad government.”
Eisenkot, also speaking at the party's press conference, called for a broad coalition with like-minded parties, saying political instability has become a grave threat to Israeli society.
The former top general also appeared to rule out joining a government with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces trial in three corruption cases, saying that “a public figure… cannot run for office with an indictment.”
Netanyahu's Likud party said in response that "Eisenkot joined a party that cannot establish a coalition... and will actually lead us to a sixth election," insisting that Likud is "the only party that can return Israel to stability."
The latest election polls released on Sunday show no clear path to a 61-seat majority coalition for either major bloc, but the pro-Netanyahu bloc maintains a stronger showing.
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Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 News placed a Netanyahu-led bloc of parties with 59 seats, and the Channel 13 News poll had it one seat shy of a Knesset majority, with 60 seats.
The bloc of parties that make up the current government, led by Yaid Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, has 54-55 seats in the polls.
The remaining six seats in all three polls go the Joint List, a three-way Arab-majority alliance, which has insisted it would not back either major bloc.
Netanyahu's Likud party still leads the fray with 34-35 projected seats, followed by Lapid's Yesh Atid, with 22-23 seats. The newly formed National Unity Party is projected to be the Knesset's third-largest with 12-14 seats, followed by far-right Religious Zionism, with 9-11 seats.
Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism maintain a stable showing in the polls, with eight and seven Knesset seats respectively.
Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, Meretz and the United Arab List are expected to be the next Knesset's smallest parties, with anywhere between four and six seats each.
In a similar pattern to previous polls, all three networks had Ayelet Shaked’s Zionist Spirit party not passing the 3.25-percent electoral threshold to make it into the Knesset.