If the elections were held today, the Likud and Blue&White would each get 30 Knesset seats, but the Haredi and rightwing bloc that would support a future Netanyahu coalition government is well below the required 61 seats, hitting only 55, according to a Midgam poll commissioned by Walla News and published Thursday.
But the same poll suggests a fascinating development within the religious Zionist bloc, whose voters appear to prefer a secular woman, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, as their leader – mostly because they believe she can bring in the votes.
The poll relied on a representative sample of 507 Israelis ages 18 and up, with a 4.4 margin of error.
Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu remains the tipping point, the potential kingmaker, if you will, with 9 seats, compared with the 5 it shrank to in the April election. Which means that Liberman succeeded in using the national disdain with the prime minister to double his power. He dragged Bibi through the mud, humiliated him to the point where the Likud leader was reduced to a furious, quite undignified attack on Liberman “the leftist,” and the audience couldn’t have enough of this disturbing show.
The Joint Arab List follows behind the two major parties with 11 seas; Israel Beiteinu with 9; United Torah Judaism: 8; Shas: 7 (down 1); Labor: 6; Rightwing Union: 5; New Right: 5 (up from 0); Meretz: 5; and Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel: 4 Knesset seats.
There is still no deal on a unified run for the five parties on the right, so that at this point they only show 10 seats. But as I wrote on Wednesday, if we were to add the lost votes on the right to the current Rightwing Union 5 seats, a unified religious Zionist slate could pick up more than half a million votes, making it the third largest Knesset faction.
According to this morning’s poll, should such a slate emerge, the public at large believes Ayelet Shaked is the best candidate to lead the unified religious right to victory. The survey found that 31% of the general public believe that Shaked should lead the unified slate, while only 7% think Habayit Hayehudi chairman and education minister Rafi Peretz should lead; New Right chairman Naftali Bennett has the support of 16%; and National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich has 6%.
Incidentally, 25% of the general respondents went with “none of the above.” However, among respondents who define themselves as rightwingers, Shaked’s lead rises to 36%, compared with 21% for Bennett, 6% for Peretz, and 7% for Smotrich.
Israeli media are obviously afraid of this new trend, that could siphon votes from Blue&White and from Likud, and which could bring Netanyahu above the 61 seat line without Liberman: Likud 30 + UTJ 8 + Shas 7 + unified religious Zionists 16 = 61. That’s the reason Ynet this week reported that key religious Zionist rabbis said they object to a woman leading such a slate (other than Aviner, who may be loud but his sphere of influence is limited even in his own community). Ynet cited three names of leading rabbis, but then, as each one of them announced that he never said such a thing, their names were removed from the silly headline, until it was left up there without any actual rabbi’s name.
The bottom line is that Ayelet Shaked is a real crossover political start; the public at large likes her as a person, despite vicious attacks on her by the judiciary elite; and Israeli rightwingers are ecstatic about her ability to pull the rug from under the Supreme Court’s activism, laboring to pack it with conservative judges.
So don’t be surprised when Shaked proves that the value of a unified Zionist slate turns out to be much bigger than the sum of its parts. Israeli voters love to hope, and Shaked is absolutely capable of igniting their dreams.