Bennett, Liberman gain as Herzog plummets in poll

Nationalist camp surges in latest poll as Labor loses nearly half its seats. Likud led by Yaalon would face massive losses.

David Rosenberg ,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Shlomi Cohen/ Flash90

A new poll published Tuesday is bad news for Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog – and very good news for Israel’s nationalist camp.

According to the poll, which was conducted by Panels Politics on behalf of Maariv, the Zionist Union party – a joint ticket of the Labor and HaTnua factions – would plummet from the 24 seats it current holds to a mere 13 if new elections were held today.

The Likud dips slightly, falling from its current 30 seats to 26.

The haredi Shas party would remain stable at 7 seats, while the United Torah Judaism party would inch upwards from 6 to 7 seats. The leftwing Meretz party would also gain slightly, moving up to 7 seats from 5.

But the big winners are the Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu parties. Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home list would rise from the 8 seats it won in 2015 to 14, while Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would nearly double, surging from 6 seats at present to 11.

As a whole, the rightwing-religious bloc – including Likud, Jewish Home, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, and UTJ – would rise from 57 seats at present to 65.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party also appears poised for a comeback, rising from 11 seats to 18. Much of Lapid’s rise can be attributed to the decline of the Knesset’s other centrist party, Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu, which declines from 10 seats to 6.

The predominately Arab Joint List party, an amalgamation of several small anti-Zionist Arab factions, would fall from 13 seats to 11.

The Maariv poll also explores a number of possible scenarios involving Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

Yaalon’s recent spat with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the right of army officers to speak out on hot-button political issues has led to speculation that the Defense Minister could be aiming for control of the Likud, or the formation of a new center or center-right party.

Despite his popularity among the Israeli public, however, Yaalon has little electoral appeal.

As head of the Likud, Yaalon would underperform Netanyahu by 7 points, winning just 19 seats compared to Netanyahu’s 26. Under Yaalon’s leadership, the Likud would hemorrhage voters to the Jewish Home, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, and Kulanu parties.

In a hypothetical scenario where the Defense Minister bolted from the Likud and won control of the Zionist Union, he would do little better than current party chief Isaac Herzog, winning just 17 seats, compared to 13 for Herzog and 24 seats which the party currently holds.

Even atop a new center-right faction bringing together Moshe Kahlon and former Likud minister Gideon Saar, Yaalon would come in a distant second to Netanyahu. The center-right “dream-team” party would net 17 compared to 26 for the Likud.