Two new polls published on Friday show a huge change in the political map in Israel, as a result of the departure of Gideon Saar from Likud. Should the country go to a new election, these two polls demonstrate for the first time the possibility of Likud losing its dominating role of the past 11 years, as menacing alternatives become apparent.
But first, what we know so far:
If no government budget is passed early next week, then on Tuesday at midnight, the Knesset will automatically dissolve and Israel will go to a fourth election campaign in less than two years, probably two weeks before Passover.
Technically the 2020 budget for the last two weeks of December cannot be approved in two working days in the Knesset plenum and in committees, and certainly not the 2021 budget. A postponement of one to two months will be needed, which would require the consent of the two senior coalition partners, Likud and Blue&White.
At this point, the consent of Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz for a further postponement could politically eliminate both him and his party. He is already being blamed within the party for becoming Benjamin Netanyahu’s floor mat. No one believes that Netanyahu will agree to abide by the rotation agreement and let Gantz become prime minister, but on the other hand, the polls show that Blue&White is tied with Meretz in last place, near the 3.25% vote threshold.
Gantz convened members of his faction on Thursday and prepared them for the possibility of new elections. At the same time, it is known that he is in talks for a compromise between the Likud and Blue&White. In the faction meeting at the Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony at the home of Minister Yizhar Shai, Ganz told his colleagues: “We are going to elections. Rest up, we will soon start a campaign.”
And yet there are still talks between the Likud and Blue&White in an attempt to reach a compromise, although both parties deny their existence.
The Likud’s idea is to postpone the rotation by extending the government’s term from three to four years. However, the Likud refuses a Blue&White proposal to enact a ban on Netanyahu’s dissolving the Knesset and going to a new election before carrying out the promised rotation. Because, naturally, no one in the Likud intends to honor the rotation agreement and give the alternative prime minister the role of prime minister.
There were also those in the Likud who said that because Gantz sacrificed the integrity of his party to join the coalition, which cost him the departure of Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, who formed a faction of 17 MKs of former Blue&White members, it is inconceivable that a politician with only 14 MKs in his faction would be given the premiership.
Please read the above paragraph twice. Do you agree it depicts shocking cynicism on the part of Likud? Of course, it does. Because, to remind you, we are discussing politics, the blood sport for people who are terribly out of shape.
Now let’s talk about Friday’s polls, one published by Maariv, the other by 103FM. I’m also including the results of a poll published by News12 last Tuesday.
Likud: 29-27-27 [27.6]
New Hope (Gideon Saar): 19-20-21 
Yesh Atid (Lapid): 13-14-14 [13.6]
Yamina (Bennett): 13-11-13 [12.3]
Joint Arab List: 11-11-11 
Shas: 8-8-8 
United Torah Judaism: 8-8-8 
Israel Beiteinu (Liberman): 7-8-6 
Blue&White (Gantz): 7-7-6 [6.6]
Meretz: 5-6-6 [5.6]
For one thing, it appears that by departing from his home party Gideon Saar, on paper, expanded the overall vote for Likud and himself from 36 to 47. This fact alone gives Netanyahu’s old opponent enormous power, being able to attract a million voters who would not have picked Likud out of their aversion to Netanyahu.
It also positions Saar (on paper) to claim the post of the prime minister, in a core coalition that would include his own New Hope, Yesh Atid, Yamina, and Blue&White. His bloc would deny Netanyahu’s bloc with Shas and United Torah Judaism the required 61 seats. It would also be enough to receive the anyone-but-Bibi MKs’ recommendation to the president.
I honestly don’t think, however, that these polls, despite being very consistent, are anything more than a snapshot of the Israeli voter’s opinion this week.