A new scenario poll was announced on Knesset Channel TV on Tuesday, and found that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu created a new party and called new elections to push through a peace deal that includes territorial withdrawals, he would still have the largest party - but only by one seat.
The scenario poll question was phrased thus: "if the Likud prevents Netanyahu from reaching an agreement that involves giving up territory and elections were tomorrow – whom would you vote for?"
The poll predicted that 18 seats would go to Netanyahu's new party, making it the Knesset's largest. Likud would drop from 20 to 17, followed by Labor and Jewish Home at 16 each. Far-left Meretz would shoot up from 6 to 11 seats.
Analyst Jeremy Saltan (aka Knesset Jeremy) spoke to Arutz Sheva to make sense of all the figures, noting that the most surprising aspect of the poll is that Netanyahu's seats would mostly come from voters who currently support parties other than Likud. About 46% of those seats would come from current Yisrael Beytenu supporters, and most of the rest would come from center-left parties.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party would fall hard, dropping from 19 to 10 seats. Similarly, Yisrael Beytenu and Shas both would drop from 11 to 5. Hatnua would drop to 4 seats and Kadima would not make it in.
"In my opinion, 18 seats is not strong enough for Netanyahu to break off from Likud," assessed Saltan. "Even if it would be the biggest party, the numbers don't merit a breakaway."
Scenario of Netanyahu following Sharon's footsteps
The scenario plays out reports that a group of Likud MKs would "rebel" against withdrawals, and comes at a time when a crisis between Netanyahu and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett is threatening to break apart the coalition.
By breaking off to create his own party, Netanyahu would be following in the footsteps of the late former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon created the Kadima party to break off from Likud in 2005 and force through the "Disengagement" Plan that expelled all Jews from Gaza and from several communities in northern Samaria.
Saltan warns that one must be cautious in interpreting scenario polls, as other factors - such as which MKs would follow Netanyahu into a new party, and which MK would take over the Likud - could highly influence the outcome.
The analyst notes that prior to Sharon's breakaway from Likud, voters didn't foresee that Kadima would be a mix-match of "refugee MKs" from various parties.
In response to the question of what Netanyahu should do if the Likud opposes a peace deal, 51% said he should accept the Likud's decision, while only 25% responded that he should create a new party.
Saltan remarks that this response may show that while the poll indicates Netanyahu would retain the largest party, this doesn't mean the majority of the Israeli public supports him breaking off to push through land withdrawals.