A party led by former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot would be the third-largest party if it runs in the next elections, stealing votes from across the political spectrum, according to a television poll published Wednesday.
Eisenkot has hinted he may enter politics since leaving the military last January, but hasn’t said whether he’ll throw his hat in the ring as the coalition teeters on the edge of collapse and Israel appears headed toward a fourth round of elections in two years.
If Eisenkot were to form a party, it would win 15 Knesset seats if elections were held today, according to the Channel 13 news survey. The channel said its imagined Eisenkot-led party would also include former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who left politics before the 2019 elections, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who is planning a Knesset run.
The poll found that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would get 27 seats, followed by the right-wing Yamina faction with 21. Trailing Eisenkot was opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem with 14 seats.
If Eisenkot doesn’t run, the poll said Likud would get 29, Yamina 22 and Yesh Atid-Telem 19.
The poll found that the Joint List of Arab-led parties would also suffer from the former general entering the race, with it garnering 11 seats if he does not run, but nine seats if he does.
If Eisenkot remains on the sidelines, the poll found that Blue and White would get 10 seats, Yisrael Beytenu eight and Shas, UTJ and Meretz seven a piece if Eisenkot remains on the sidelines.
If he dives in, however, Blue and White would fall to eight seats, both Yisrael Beytenu and UTJ would get seven spots, and Shas and Meretz would each pick up six.
Without Eisenkot in the picture, right-wing and Haredi parties would together have 65 seats, giving Netanyahu a comfortable majority if Yamina returns to the fold, after being left out of the current government.
But if Eisenkot does run, the combined seat total of Likud, Yamina, Shas and UTJ would fall to 61, enough for a bare majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
In either scenario, neither the Labor, Gesher, Derech Eretz or Jewish Home parties were predicted to clear the minimum vote threshold needed to enter the Knesset.
The survey was conducted by pollster Camil Fuchs and included 706 respondents, with a 3.9 percent margin of error.
The release of the poll Wednesday came hours after the coalition’s Blue and White helped pass a bill in its initial reading to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections, heralding the likely end of the power-sharing deal Netanyahu signed with Defense Minister Benny Gantz some six months ago.
The move set the stage for the fourth round of national elections in under two years, though it must still pass more votes and move through committee, amid speculation that the sides may attempt to work out a deal before then.
According to a television report last month, Eisenkot is planning a joint political bid with Huldai, but they haven’t decided who will head the slate.
Eisenkot, who was IDF chief of staff from 2015 to 2019 and who currently works for a number of think tanks, denied the report of the joint run, as did Huldai.
In September, Eisenkot criticized the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, declaring the effort a failure and saying the cabinet had lost the public’s trust. He also appeared to denounce Netanyahu’s ongoing campaign of criticism against the police and state prosecution following the premier’s indictment on corruption charges.
Likud and Blue and White have feuded almost since the inception of their power-sharing coalition in May, but ties between them hit a low in recent weeks as a December 23 budget deadline nears. Gantz has accused Netanyahu of refusing to pass the 2020 and 2021 state budgets in one shot — as per the coalition agreement — in an attempt to prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister in November 2021, also as per the coalition agreement.