Four polls have the right-Orthodox bloc winning between 63 and 65 Knesset seats, making it impossible for any candidate to prevent Netanyahu from securing another term in office.
Four new election polls were released in the last couple of days. (Five if you count Haaretz, but I don’t.) They all tell the same story. In fact, it’s incredible how consistent the polls are, and how stable they seem. No political maneuvering, nor the recent escalation in the south, has affected the overall picture: Netanyahu’s bloc – consisting of ultra-Orthodox parties and the right, has a solid Knesset majority. Bibi will be the next prime minister.
Some people think that the Orthodox parties might support a centrist candidate following the elections. But as I explained in more detail here, this scenario is possible only if the right and the Orthodox fail to reach the 60-seat threshold for a Knesset majority, and this is clearly not the case now.
Take a look at this pie – it shows the average of the last four polls (hovering over a slice will show the party name and the expected number of seats). As long as the blue-black-grey pieces cover more than half the pie, the game is over and Netanyahu is prime minister. (This chart, and others, can be found on our Knesset poll tracking page.) I know that an advantage of 4-5 seats to the right doesn’t seem like much, but when all the polls look the same, it is highly unlikely that they’re wrong. This was the lesson from the last U.S. presidential elections – we should trust the polls, especially when they all tell the same story. In fact, one could say that the Israeli situation is the mirror image of the American: the demographics have been playing in the right’s favor for more than a decade, and the opposition – the center-left – is in deep crisis and not able to unite around a leader and a coherent ideology.
A few more takeaways from recent days:
- Netanyahu seems to recognize that he has no challenger from his left. The decision to allow the construction of 3,000 units in the occupied West Bank seems like an attempt to prevent voters from deserting the Likud for the National Religious Party (“Jewish Home”) which has been gaining some ground in recent polls under the newly-elected Naftali Bennett.
- Tzipi Livni has formed yet another Israeli centrist party: Hatnuah (“the movement”), and is now polling between six and nine seats – all of them taken from other left and centrist parties. Not really a game-changer.
- The parties will submit their final lists of candidates next week, and we will officially enter the home stretch. My guess is that at least two centrist parties will disappear: Kadima without Livni is a dead horse – Shaul Mofaz will be lucky to enter the new Knesset. Atzmaut without Barak might not even bother to run.
- A neo-Kahanist party called Otzma (“power”) to Israel is getting closer to passing the Knesset threshold. The party is headed by former Kahane man Michael Ben-Ari, today an MK for the National Union.
- In many Israeli election cycles, there seems to emerge a bubble party (or a “trend party”) – one that attracts undecided and less politicized voters – in days leading up to elections. Right now, it seems that Rabbi Amsalem’s Am Shalem party has the potential to play this role. Amsalem – who left Shas and has since harshly criticized the Orthodox leaders for enabling their constituencies to avoid the draft and employment – is polling between two and four seats, all of them from the center. Amsalem is a hawk and he brings with him a group of ultra-nationalists like former IDF general Elazar Stern, but this fact is not likely to hurt him too much given the current political atmosphere in Israel. Still, his positions are unclear, so I don’t count him with any of the other Knesset blocs.
- The best thing that could come out of these elections is a move to ideological, rather than a tactical, voting patterns. In other words, if some voters on the left think that they can beat Netanyahu, they might end up supporting candidates to their right, such as Yachimovich or Livni. But if voters think that there is no such chance, they could move to more ideological parties. The result could be an emergence of a stronger Jewish-Arab bloc within the opposition with a commitment to human rights and to ending the occupation. It will still be far from a ruling majority – very far – but nevertheless, it will have its effect. If voters instead rush to the center, we are likely to end with another disastrous Knesset, just like the current one.