Netanyahu's Likud Largest Party, Gantz's Loses Four Seats in Latest Israeli Election Poll

With only one week to Israel's third election this year, polls suggest that the March 2 ballot may fail to resolve the political stalemate

People walk past an election campaign billboard in Ramat Gan, Israel, Feb. 23, 2020.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is projected to be the largest party in the Knesset after next week's election, according to a poll released Monday by Channel 13 News, which also shows Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party losing four seats.

The poll sees Likud getting 33 seats compared to Kahol Lavan's 32 – the first time the premier's party has surpassed Kahol Lavan in Channel 13's surveys.

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It also has 44 percent of respondents picking Netanyahu as the most suitable for the role of prime minister, compared to 30 percent for Gantz.

The parties that backed Netanyahu after the previous election garner a total of 56 seats in the poll – five short of a majority, raising the possibility that the third election in a year will again lead to failure to build a coalition and result in a stalemate.

According to the poll, the third-largest party would be the Joint List alliance of Arab-led parties with 14 seats, followed by the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance with 10. The right-wing Yamina coalition, headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, is forecast to get eight seats in the poll, and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu – the party with the most power to break a potential stalemate in coalition-building – eight as well.

The ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism are predicted to get eight and seven seats, respectively.

The poll was released a day after two polls published Sunday by Channel 12 and the Kan public broadcaster showed Likud with a narrow lead over Kahol Lavan. In those polls, too, no party was predicted to secure a parliamentary majority, indicating no clear end to Israel's unprecedented political deadlock.

Center-left fears loses voters

Labor-Gesher-Meretz is concerned that Kahol Lavan will launch a campaign to woo away voters from its left wing in light of Likud's rise in the polls.

Labor-Gesher-Meretz is worried the campaign to attract their voters could cost them a number of seats in the next Knesset. The party’s chairman, Amir Peretz, came to the conclusion within the past two weeks that even if Kahol Lavan does not lose any seats, Gantz would act – as he did in the past two rounds of elections – to increase the party’s size at the expense of the left-wing party.

Sources in Kahol Lavan confirmed that the campaign hopes to draw votes from within the center-left bloc as a tactical move intended to place the party in a better position, in preparation for future coalition negotiations.

Peretz has urged Gantz not to harm his party, and has stuck to this message at almost every public campaign event where he has spoken in recent days. For example, on Saturday at a rally of party activists in the Arab city of Sakhnin in the Galilee, Peretz said: “The situation proves that the fiction known as ‘the largest party’ has failed.”

“It does not matter how many more seats Kahol Lavan has than Likud. This is the third election campaign that Israel has been led into because of this mistaken idea,” said Peretz. “The size of the bloc is what decides, and we, Labor-Gesher-Meretz, are the most faithful to the center-left bloc. The bigger we are – the more we can guarantee that the next government will be a government of change and hope, and not a right-wing government.”