Netanyahu and Liberman
Netanyahu and LibermanYonatan Sindel/Flash90

After an unprecedented repeat election this year, a first in the Knesset’s 70 years, Israel is poised to head back to elections for a third time in less than a year.

If the Knesset is unable to nominate a candidate for the premiership, requiring the backing of 61 MKs, the 22nd Knesset will be dissolved, forcing Israel to elections in early 2020.

After the Likud and the right-wing bloc were weakened in the September 17th election, who is likely to benefit from a third national poll in under 12 months?

Shlomo Filber, one of the owners of the Direct Polls agency – and a former director-general of Israel’s Communications Ministry named as a state’s witness in the Case 4000 investigation against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – told Radio 103FM Thursday that it appears that Yisrael Beytenu, which has positioned itself as kingmaker yet failed to force the formation of a unity government, is likely to lose ground if Israel does indeed go to early elections.

Yisrael Beytenu, Filber said, is poised to lose two of its eight seats, falling back roughly to its strength prior to the September election. The party won six seats in 2015 and five in the April 2019 election.

Based on recent polling, Filber said that a large portion of Yisrael Beytenu’s center-right supporters were likely to abandon the party in the next election, with many blaming Yisrael Beytenu chief Avidgor Liberman for the ongoing political deadlock.

“Everyone is talking about who is to blame, and the polls show two names: Liberman and Netanyahu. People left of center of course blame Netanyahu for the failure to form a unity government, but it is interesting to see that the right-wingers don’t blame Liberman, not Gantz.”

“The seats Liberman won in the last election include four seats from the Russian sector, along with ‘refugees’ from Kulanu who did not join with the Likud and instead chose another center-right party; along with the children of [Russian] immigrants who came back home to Liberman; and center-left voters who believed Liberman could deal with issues of religion and state. What is happening now is very dangerous for Liberman.”

“Liberman is likely to lose two seats – one to the Left and one to the Right.”

Filber also said that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges appears to have strengthened – not weakened – the Likud.

“The big question was whether an indictment would shatter support for Netanyahu in the right-wing camp, or strengthen it. In the last few days, we’ve seen the Likud strengthening after the indictments. Other than one seat moving from Liberman to the Likud, there’s another seat coming from Blue and White that is going back to the Likud over fears of the possible cooperation between Blue and White with the Joint Arab List. Blue and White, on the other hand, maintains its overall strength.”

While Filber sees an overall strengthening of the Right, and the Likud in particular, he adds that the Right would still come up short of the necessary 61 seats to form a narrow government without Liberman or Blue and White.

Currently, the right-wing – religious bloc has 55 seats, including 32 from the Likud, while the left-wing – Arab bloc has 57 seats, including 33 from Blue and White. Yisrael Beytenu has eight seats, and has refused to back the formation of either a right or left-wing narrow government.