According to four surveys published Wednesday night, former chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s party Khosen L’Israel (Resilience to Israel) has added 8 to 9 seats, reaching as high as 24 seats, compared with Likud’s 30.
Better yet, some of the surveys have Prime Minister Netanyahu and Gantz neck and neck in the low 40th percentile for fitness to become the next premier. This kind of score has not been seen in Israel for a decade, and until this week was considered impossible.
Incidentally, yours truly yesterday decimated the Gantz speech from every possible direction except likeability. This would be a good spot to admit that yours truly is no authority on the appetites of Israeli voters, find a quiet corner and eat his hat.
Here’s the rub, though: there’s no doubt that the biggest victim of the Gantz juggernaut is Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sank to single digits in these latest polls, meaning that Lapid’s voters only parked their votes with him all this time, and abandoned him for a shinier candidate as soon as one emerged.
For Gantz to match forces with Bibi and win, he’d have to enlist Yair Lapid as his partner, either before or after the elections. Or, of course, whip him until he dives into the abyss below the threshold vote (3.75% or 4 votes, give or take half a vote) – and siphon the rest of Lapid’s voters.
In any event, with Lapid or just Lapid’s former supporters, Gantz has the upper hand over Netanyahu – 33 to 30. But Bibi has faced such a situation once before, when Tzipi Livni, then leader of the Kadima party, in 2009 out scored him 28 to 27, but was unable to forge a bloc that would endorse her to the president.
So, based on this week’s polls, what are Gantz’s chances of topping Bibi’s endorsements?
Using the channel 13 poll results on this page, Bibi can count on his own 30; UTJ – 6; New Right – 6; Shas – 5; Habayit Hayehudi – 4. That’s a certain 51 votes.
Gantz should be able to count on his own 24; Lapid – 9; Labor – 6. That’s 39 secure votes (assuming Lapid plays ball).
Three players will be hovering between the two competing major leaguers: Avigdor Liberman – 4; Orly Levy – 4; and Moshe Kahlon – 4. That’s 12 votes that could take Bibi over the top and get Gantz 51 endorsements to President Rivlin.
In my opinion (as I’m eating the remaining portion of my hat), all three small parties would feel more comfortable with Gantz than with Netanyahu. For one thing, should Bibi be under an indictment come April 9, they would prefer not to be associated with him. Liberman and Levy have already parted company with Netanyahu in his current term (Levy actually parted with Liberman who later parted with Bibi, but that’s water under the political bridge). Moshe Kahlon would not join a leftist government, but Gantz on Tuesday night made every possible effort to show he is no leftist.
So, amazingly, both leaders could be staring at each other with 51 seats each.
Which means that the left-wing benches would decide the day. Meretz (4), Ahmad Tibi (8), and the Joint Arab List (6) could endorse Gantz tacitly, without serving in his coalition government, and then offer their support based on individual legislations and political deals – just like in every other parliament.
This scenario gives Gantz a whopping 69 endorsements, making him the next prime minister of Israel.
Or I eat my hat again.