Photo Credit: Flash 90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with then Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar sitting together in the Knesset plenum, March 19, 2013.

After the wave of departures from Benny Gantz’s Blue&White, and the entry to the political arena of Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai’s The Israelis, Wednesday night’s polls on Channels 11, 12, and 13 show that Gideon Saar should almost be able to put together a coalition government without Benjamin Netanyahu (with Netanyahu having the same exact problem if he excludes Saar). The Likud retains its power from the previous polls and remains the largest party, but the stubborn Saar’s New Hope remains on track. Here are the results:

Polls, Dec. 30, 2020

It appears that Huldai’s new party has taken from Blue&White not only a few Knesset members but also the bulk of its votes. Bnei Gantz’s party continues to fall and now approaches the minimum electoral threshold with only 4 to 5 seats.

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According to the Kan 11 poll, if Yamina breaks up with Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich going their separate ways, possibly with Smotrich joining forces with Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bennett would still bring in 12 seats, while Smotrich won’t make it into the next Knesset. But similar predictions were made in the recent past with the result being Bennett’s disappearance from the Knesset and Smotrich holding on to 5 seats. All of which suggests that those two leaders must find a way to keep their union.

The changes between the three polls are minor, with most of the action taking place on the left, where Mayor Ron Huldai’s new Israelis party sucking the life out of both Blue&White and Meretz.

Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu continues its slow descent, which is not a Gantz-style tailspin, but it ain’t getting better either.

The Joint Arab List continues to lose popularity. Its leaders blame Mansur Abbas, leader of its Islamic faction, who dared to speak openly about trading horses with the Likud. But the Arab list’s loss of power can probably be attributed to the loss of interest among many Israeli Arab voters in the party’s main cause – a Palestinian State, as a growing list of regional powers is seeking normalization with Israel, never mind the “Palestinians”.

Should these be the March election’s results, give or take, Netanyahu will only be able to cobble together a guaranteed bloc of 45 mandates with Likud and the two Haredi parties. Yamina’s 12 to 14 seats (God willing) would get him closer to a majority, but would still fall short of 61.

Netanyahu may call on his old partner, Benny Gantz to complete the set, and Gantz could prove he remains a glutton for punishment and say Yes. Otherwise, Netanyahu would have to invite his nemesis Gideon Sa’ar to help him forge a large, rightwing coalition.

Sa’ar for his part could attempt to forge a 49- to 50-mandate bloc of “anyone but Bibi” parties, made up of New Hope, Yamina, Lapid, and Liberman.

Saar, who stands to the right of Netanyahu on most issues, would not be able to govern with Lapid in the coalition and it’s also unlikely he would want to make his coalition’s entire existence reliant on the whims of Liberman, but he could rely on Lapid to help him block Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Saar could tempt the Haredim to come over to his side, without Lapid on the inside, of course.

In the end, Israel’s parties may have new names, but the problem remains: a split down the middle between Netanyahu and those who want to see him gone.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.