And we’re off to the races with Tuesday morning’s Walla News TNS Teleseker, as the battered Likud-Beiteinu, with one leader tied behind its back with an indictment, is unable to stop the hemorrhaging of its votes to other right-wing parties. And so, had the elections been held on Sunday, when the poll was conducted (using a sample of 500 age 18+ Israelis, with a 2 seat margin of error), Likud-Beiteinu would have dropped to 34 seats, as compared with 35 seats in the same poll a week ago.
Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home appears completely recovered from the glitch of last week’s “refusal to evacuate Jew” fiasco, and it continues to own its 15 seats, give or take, as it did in the same poll a week ago.
Shas also maintains it rise from 10 to 11 seats, and Torah Judaism’s rise from 5 to 6 seats is a fait accompli.
On the other hand, Power to Israel has dropped off the face of the Earth in this poll, a victim of the “blocking percentage” that requires a list to gain two seats before it can receive its first seat.
Except that with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 seats, it is quite possible that both Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, the two bad boys of the Israeli right, will make it into the Knesset.
Altogether, the Likud-Beiteinu has lost 4 seats in three weeks in the Walla weekly poll, and so, even though the Right plus Haredim block maintains its 66 seat majority, Likud-Beiteinu’s share in the loot is shrinking.
On the Left things have remained about the same this week in this poll: Labor with 18, both Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid with 10 each, Meretz with 4, and Kadima is back in the race with 2 (down from its 28 seats in the previous elections). The Arab parties are down to just 10 seats from their previous projections of 12 and 11 – but that, too, is within the margin of error and the Arabs could very well end up with 12 seats.
There are a few unexpected developments reflected in this week’s poll.
First, the additional Shas seat can be explained by the anti-illegal workers sentiment among non-religious Israelis. The segment of the population that’s exposed more than any other to the phenomenon of idle African illegals loitering in their streets are working class Jews in the low income neighborhoods of the big cities, who are more likely to also be Sephardi.
Shas co-leader, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, is perceived publicly as an unabashed enemy of illegal migrants, and so, given those two factors, secular Israeli Sephardim may be feeling that their single issue would be best addressed with Shas in the government.
That brings us to the next unexpected development: paradoxically, the more secure Netanyahu appears in his future as the next prime minister, the more votes he’s going to lose. Since no one has risen to a point where they can hope to challenge Netanyahu for the top job – the more the thinking voter both on the left and on the right is going to figure out how to use their vote not to secure Netanyahu’s spot but to influence the direction of his government.
This is why both the moderate right – Jewish Home, and the moderate left – Labor, who would have otherwise voted Likud-Beiteinu, prefer now to throw their weight in favor of his potential coalition partners. This could explain why non-religious, right-wing voters who normally would be the typical Likud voters, are planning to vote for Jewish Home, a religious party.
Then there’s the unique personality of Naftali Bennett, who combines his knitted yarmulke with combat military service, an enviable exit as hi-tech developer, and a stint as Netanyahu’s chief of staff. His very common style, his earnestness and his magic touch in galvanizing the Jewish Home party from a 3-seat has been to the third largest party—albeit still just on paper—have ignited the imagination of secular Israelis who are not hostile to their own national tradition.
Moreover, Bennett insists on saying only good things about his former boss, Netanyahu, even when provoked by the beastly Nissim Mishal on TV, who kept barking at him: But Bibi hates you, he hates your guts, he’ll never let you into his government. At Likud things were not nearly as friendly, as the ruling party’s propaganda machine spent day and night portraying Bennett as an extreme right wing wolf in the sheepskin of a benign centrist. It cost Likud between 3 and 4 votes.