Binyamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid
Binyamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party opened up an eight-seat lead over former Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted by Geocartography and publicized on Kol Barama, shows the Labor party regaining much of its lost strength following the election of former Kulanu Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay as party chief, drawing voters away from rival parties on the left.

The Zionist Union, a joint list including Labor and the much smaller Hatnua faction, won 24 seats in 2015. Since then, however, the party has hemorrhaged support, sinking in the polls to as few as six seats.

But the replacement of former party chief Isaac Herzog with Gabbay, a former Kulanu member who is perceived to be more of a centrist than his predecessor, has helped the party restore much of its lost electoral strength.

While a Geocartography poll published on May 26th showed the Zionist Union winning just 11 seats, Wednesday’s survey projected 19 for Gabbay.

Three of those seats came at the expense of Yesh Atid, which sank from 24 in the May 26th poll to 21. That would still represent a significant gain for the party, however, which won just 11 seats in 2015.

An additional three seats gained by the Zionist Union in between the two polls came from the far-left Meretz party, which won five seats in 2015 but polled at eight in May’s survey – only to fall back to five in the latest poll.

The two remaining seats gained by the Zionist Union in the latest survey come from the predominantly Arab Joint List party, which fell from 13 seats in May to 11. The party won 13 seats in 2015.

Despite its gains, the Zionist Union still trails the Likud badly, which retains nearly all of the 30 seats it won in 2015, with a projected 29 seats in Wednesday’s poll.

The Jewish Home party would gain 2 seats if elections were held today, the poll showed, rising from 8 to 10, while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would lose 2, falling to just 4 seats.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party would drop two mandates, falling to eight.

The haredi parties would retain the same combined number of seats from last election – 13 – though United Torah Judaism would gain three, all at the expense of Shas.

According to the poll, Netanyahu’s current governing coalition would retain a majority, losing just 3 seats, falling from 67 to 64 of the 120 total in the Knesset.

A second poll released Wednesday showed Netanyahu’s coalition dropping 4 seats to 63.

That survey, conducted by Panels on behalf of Walla News, gave Likud 25 mandates, a loss of 5 compared to its present 30, while Yesh Atid would win 21 and the Zionist Union 19.

The Joint List would fall to 12 from its present 13, while the Jewish Home party would rise to 12 from the 8 it won in 2015.

The haredi United Torah Judaism party would climb to eight from its present six, while Shas would fall to five from the seven it won in the last election.

The far-left Meretz part would remain at five, while the centrist Kulanu would fall to seven.

Yisrael Beytenu would remain at six mandates.

In both polls, a party led by former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who split from the Likud, failed to pass the 3.25% electoral threshold. Former Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s Yahad and ex-Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut also failed to pass the threshold.

The Panels poll also shows Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remains by far the most popular choice for premier, with more than twice the support of either Yair Lapid or Avi Gabbay.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said Netanyahu was most suited to lead the country, compared to 16% for both Gabbay and Lapid. Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) came in a distant fourth with 7%, tying with Finance Minister Kahlon (Kulanu), with Defense Minister Liberman at 3%.