A new poll published on Monday makes the prospect of a center-left challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s bid for re-election look more serious than ever.
The Panels Politics research institute said that if elections were held now, a combined ticket of Labor chairman Yitzchak Herzog and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would win 23 seats, versus only 21 for a Netanyahu-led Likud.
Jewish Home would take 18 seats; Yisrael Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, and Moshe Kahlon’s new party (still nameless) would get nine each. United Torah Judaism would garner eight seats, Shas seven, and Meretz six.
Of the Arab parties, Hadash would receive five seats, as would United Arab List-Ta’al, while Balad would get none. But expected unification of Arab parties ahead of the elections would change things.
Without Livni, Labor would receive only 17 seats, according to the poll, which surveyed 500 adults based on a sample of the Israeli population, with a margin of error of up to 4.5%.
Herzog also offered sage counsel to his potential coalition partners, saying at a Labor party meeting that “now is the time to keep the egos in check” and work together to defeat Netanyahu. Herzog has been announcing every day that he will be the next prime minister.
Meanwhile, former Finance minister Yair Lapid said that he would be leading the charge against Netanyahu.
“Yesh Atid will lead the center bloc,” Lapid said. “We will connect with other parties to replace the current leadership and continue with full force, exactly from the place where we stopped. Everything is ready.”
Lapid pronounced his judgment on Netanyahu’s policies on security, saying that the prime minister “failed to bring security.”
Regarding peace negotiations, Lapid said: “There is no plan, there is no diplomatic horizon that anyone can understand, and there isn’t the courage to take decisions when the only thing that concerns him is what the Likud Central Committee will say,” he said.
“We need to go to a regional process with the Arab League to reach an agreement that will lead to a separation from the Palestinians.”
Election deal-making got off to a fast start as Meretz and Labor signed a vote-sharing agreement on Monday. Surplus votes are left over once it is determined how many votes each mandate is worth, and these surplus votes can be given to another party through such an agreement.
Yisrael Beitenu made a similar deal with former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon on Monday.
Also on Monday, another senior Likud member left the political arena. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat announced her retirement from politics. Since joining the Knesset as a Likud member for the first time in 1992, Livnat served as minister of Communications from 1996-1999, minister of Education from 2001-2006, and finally minister of Culture and Sports from 2009 until the present.