The first polls after the announcement by State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit that he recommends Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges ranging from breach of trust to bribery in three investigations against him shows that the Likud, and the right, is maintaining its strength – while more votes from the center-left are moving toward Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.
The i24 News-Yisrael Hayom poll has Gantz opening up a significant gap over Netanyahu, with Blue and White getting 38 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today. The Likud would get 29 seats. But forming a coalition would be easier for Netanyahu; the next largest party in the poll is the United Right List, which would get 9 seats, followed by the New Right, with 8 seats. United Torah Judaism and Shas would get 7 and 6 seats respectively, while Kulanu would get 4 seats.
On the left, votes that would have gone to Labor have clearly been moving to Blue and White; the party that has been at the forefront of Israeli politics for 70 years would get a mere 7 seats in the Knesset. Meretz, the other leftist party, would get 5 seats.
Among Arab parties, the Ta’al-Hadash party would get 7 seats, while the Balad-Ra’am list would fail to pass the electoral threshold. Assuming Meretz would be taken into a coalition by Gantz and his partner Yair Lapid – not at all a sure thing – Gantz would be able to build a coalition of 50 seats. Lapid said in interviews last week that Blue and White would not rely on the Arab parties to block a Netanyahu-led coalition, but even if it did, that would still not give Gantz enough seats to create a coalition of his own, or even prevent Netanyahu from doing so.
Traditionally, politicians in Gantz’s position would attempt to appeal to chareidi parties, which appear to be the kingmakers in the election. However, both UTJ and Shas have announced several times that they will not join a Gantz-led coalition that includes Lapid, who is seen as anti-religious. The chances that Gantz will throw Lapid off the list are nil. As such, Netanyahu’s partners on the right, with 17 seats, together with the chareidi parties and Kulanu, would build a coalition of 63 seats.
In an interview with Reshet Bet earlier this week, Lapid said that the “natural move” for Blue and White would be to form a coalition with Netanyahu. “We won’t form a government with the Arabs, we will seek to do so with the Likud. This will be a post-Netanyahu Likud, he will not remain in the party if he loses. The Likud is an important national party with good people, and they will make a positive addition to the next Knesset. I would certainly be happy to be in a government with them,” Lapid said.
However, in his remarks Thursday night after the Mandelblit announcement, Gantz ruled that possibility out. “Sitting in a coalition with Netanyahu cannot be on the agenda now,” Gantz said. “The best thing would be for Mr. Netanyahu to resign his post, out of responsibility to Israel.”