An election survey released on Tuesday forecast a right-wing religious bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu winning enough seats to form a majority coalition if joined by the Yamina faction.
The survey by the Kan public broadcaster predicted that Netanyahu’s Likud party, its ultra-Orthodox allies, Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party would together win 62 seats, enough for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Bennett has said he is seeking the prime ministership himself, but has not ruled out sitting with Netanyahu.
A bloc opposing Netanyahu consisting of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, the Arab majority Joint List, Labor, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White would win 58 seats, just shy of a majority, the survey said.
The poll predicted 11 parties entering the Knesset, led by Likud with 29 seats; followed by Yesh Atid, 18; New Hope, 14; Yamina, 13; the Joint List, 9; ultra-Orthodox Shas, 8; ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, 7; Labor, 7; Yisrael Beytenu, 6; Religious Zionism, 5; and Blue and White, 4.
Smotrich’s Religious Zionism alliance includes two far-right extremist parties — the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit and homophobic Noam factions — which could complicate forming a coalition with the alliance.
A senior Likud minister ruled out sitting in a coalition with Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit, who is in the third slot on the merged slate. Ahead of the March 2020 election, Bennett vetoed Ben Gvir’s inclusion in his right-wing slate.
Sa’ar also ruled out sitting with Ben Gvir in a coalition.
Netanyahu brokered the merger between the right-wing parties, which were not expected to win enough votes to enter the Knesset alone.
Bennett and Sa’ar are fighting each other for the support of anti-Netanyahu voters on the right of the spectrum, in an election in which the long-serving prime minister is being challenged both from the center-left and the right.
Tuesday’s survey saw the left-wing Meretz party winning only 2.8% of the vote, failing to clear the 3.25% electoral threshold to make it into the Knesset. The Arab Ra’am party, which split from the Joint List, was also not predicted to cross the threshold.
Fifty-six percent of respondents said that Netanyahu’s criminal trial influences his decision-making regarding the pandemic, and 17% said they “didn’t know” if the trial was a factor.
Netanyahu is on trial for charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three cases. He denies any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of a political coup attempt by police, state prosecutors, the media and the opposition. He formally pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.
Netanyahu was still the leading preference for prime minister, with 38% saying they preferred the premier over Sa’ar’s 33%, and 29% of respondents saying they preferred neither.
Netanyahu also led over Lapid, 45% to 28%, with 27% saying neither was their preferred candidate for premier.
Previous surveys have generally predicted political deadlock after the election, with no party having a clear path to assembling a majority coalition. A poll released last week predicted a potential hypothetical majority for a coalition of the premier’s rivals.
The Kan survey was conducted on Tuesday and queried 550 Jewish and Arab Israelis. It had a margin of error of 4.4%.
While horse-race polls are an almost daily occurrence in Israel in the months leading up to elections and are not seen as overly reliable, taken together the surveys can often serve as a general gauge of the political climate and where the vote may be headed.
National elections — the fourth in two years — were called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.
The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s varied success battling the pandemic.