Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with MK Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesst, June 21, 2021.

A survey that was conducted on Monday and Tuesday by the Maagar Mochot Institute and published Wednesday morning by Israel Hayom (סקר ישראל היום ומאגר מוחות: למרות המגעים לעסקת טיעון – התמיכה בנתניהו נשארת גבוהה) found that should Benjamin Netanyahu continue to lead the Likud party in the next national election, Likud will win 34 seats (compared with 30 in the current Knesset), and Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, would rise from its current 6 seats to 8. Those two seats will be taken directly from Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, which according to the survey would drop from 7 to 5 seats.

However, should Netanyahu be forced to leave politics and someone else takes over the Likud leadership, the country’s largest party loses votes, and the big winner is… you guessed, Bezalel Smotrich.

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If Netanyahu is replaced by the most popular contender, former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Likud will drop from its current 30 to 29 sears but will remain the country’s largest party. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would climb from its current 17 seats to 20; and the third-largest party in Israel would be Religious Zionism, with 11 seats. Yamina remains at 5 seats.

Next: should former Knesset Speaker and former Health Minister Yuli Edelstein take over at Likud, the party would drop to second place with 16 seats, behind Yesh Atid with 21. But look at Israel’s third-largest party: Religious Zionism, with 13 sears. Yamina at 5.

Things look even worse for Likud should former Transportation and Finance Minister Israel Katz becomes party leader. Likud then drops to 15, behind Yair Lapid with 21. And Smotrich? He is at 14 seats. Yamina? Still with 5.

What about Likud’s chances to establish the next government after the elections?

With Netanyahu at the helm, the right-wing bloc will look as follows:

Likud – 34
Shas – 9
Religious Zionism – 8
United Torah Judaism – 7
Yamina – 5

It would give Netanyahu a solid, 63-seat coalition government with a frog he must swallow called Naftali Bennett. There has been a lot of bad blood between Yamina and the rest of the right-wing parties other than Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, which is expected to disappear. Would Netanyahu prefer to include Blue&White Chairman Benny Gantz with his 9 projected seats (compared to his current 8), rather than extend Bennett’s political life? Mind you, Gantz is heavily invested in pushing through an IDF Draft bill that would include enlistment quotas, not a big favorite with the Haredi partners in Netanyahu’s coalition government.

In short, without Yamina, a winning Netanyahu still has only 58 seats. It means that Netanyahu, Bennett, and Smotrich would have to make peace in order to give Israel the strong, right-wing government it deserves.

It would also probably be a good idea for Smotrich and Bennett to sign a vote surplus agreement so that their votes won’t be lost to the religious Zionist camp, and as a sign that their partnership could be revisited, presumably making the religious right the third-largest faction in Israel.

With Barkat at the helm, things look amazing for the right-wing bloc:

Likud – 29
Religious Zionism – 11
Shas – 11
United Torah Judaism – 8
Yamina – 5

Barkat gets to lead a 64-seat, right-wing coalition government, bigger than Netanyahu’s. It would also be the most homogenous party in Israel’s history. And without Netanyahu, there would be little or no problem in accepting Yamina back into the fold. Maybe with a little hazing. Ayelet Shaked would get back her job at the Justice Ministry, and Netanyahu would have to settle for something like the Health Ministry, which has been under his watchful eye this whole time anyway.

Incidentally, those other Likud candidates, Edelstein and Katz, would both fall short of a coalition, leaving the field to the big projected winner, Yair Lapid.

The survey included 504 respondents, constituting a representative sample of the adult population in Israel, with a maximum sampling error of 4.4%.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.