One year after the elections to the 20th Knesset, which have led to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 61-member coalition government, Channel 2 News’ Meet the Press program hired the services of one of the more reputable pollsters in Israel, Dr. Mina Tzemach and Mano Geva of the Midgam Institute, to find out the outcome of an election that would have been conducted today (actually, yesterday, because Israel is probably the only country on the planet where they’d never run an election on Shabbat). The results, following a trend that was established on February 26 by an Israel Radio / Rafi Smith poll, show a sharp rise for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party back to its original strength in the 19th Knesset, and a drop for the current coalition parties from 61 to only 57 seats.
But the decline of the right-wing coalition parties does not mean a rise of the left. In fact, the left would lose even more than Likud if the elections were held today, with Labor dropping from 24 to 18 seats, essentially losing the 6-seat dowry MK Tzipi Livni brought with her to the shiduch with Labor Chairman Itzhak Herzog. Of all the components in this most recent poll, it isn’t Likud’s but Labor’s drop which will likely bring change in the affected party. It shows the complete failure of the Herzog experiment of turning Labor into “The Zionist Camp,” and will likely contribute to his ouster come the next party conference.
Likud’s drop from 30 to 26 most likely shows that the National Religious and Settlement voters who switched at the last minute from their home party HaBayit HaYehudi to Likud have learned their lesson and from now on would prefer to support Netanyahu through their own leaders, Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel and Ayelet Shaked. Bennett’s party goes up from 8 to 11, which is still one seat short of their total in the 19th Knesset. Netanyahu’s other partners maintain their current power, give or take a seat: Shas drops one seat, from 7 to 6; UTJ gains one seat, from 6 to 7.
The most likely additional coalition partner remains Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beiteinu party appears to have recovered, partially, from its catastrophic loss last time around, and in this poll goes up from 6 to 8 seats. With Lieberman inside his tent, Netanyahu can maintain a rightwing, Zionist, Jewish coalition government in which he, interestingly, would mark the left. By the way, the option of including Lieberman exists in the real world as well, but for some reason that stabilizing move is yet to be taken.
But the biggest winner is Yair Lapid, who surprised everyone when he embraced the loss of 8 seats in the 20th Knesset, continued to be visible, and apparently has recaptured the center to become the second largest party again. It does not mean that Netanyahu would want him as a coalition partner, but it does mean that Lapid would be victorious over his contender for the center votes, Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party dropped from 10 to 7 seats in this poll. Lapid also gets seats from Labor, where the disappointed right-wing of the party have drifted to his corner. For today.
The extreme left remains about the same in this poll, with the Joint Arab List maintaining its 13 seats, and Meretz holding on to its 5 seats, just barely above the threshold number.
The poll was conducted from March 1 to 2 among a population-wide representative sample of 500 respondents ages 18 and up, with a maximum error of +/- 4.5% — which is big, but acceptable.