Less than 24 hours after the Israeli governing coalition voted to back dissolving the 20th Knesset and head to early elections, the first poll after the decision shows incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu poised to win a fifth term in office.
On Monday, coalition party leaders voted unanimously to back the dissolution of the current Knesset and push up the election for the 21st Knesset from November 5th, 2019 to April 9th.
The government, which had its 66-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset cut to 61 seats following the departure of Yisrael Beytenu last month, was unable to secure majority support for a crucial draft bill, which must be passed by January 15th, or face the nullification of the draft deferment program for yeshiva students.
The first poll conducted following the decision to dissolve the Knesset shows the Likud with a wide lead over its competitors, with incumbent Premier Netanyahu well-positioned to win a fifth term – his fourth consecutive term. Netanyahu, who first served as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, was elected again in 2009, 2013, and 2015. If he is reelected next spring, he will become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history, surpassing Israel’s first premier, David Ben-Gurion.
According to the new poll, conducted Monday night by Panels Politics for Maariv, the Likud would retain the 30 seats it won in 2015, giving it a double-digit lead over its nearest competitor.
The second largest party, according to the survey, would be a new faction formed by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. Such a party would win 13 seats if new elections were held today.
In third place is former Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction with 12 seats, a gain of just a single seat over its current 11 mandates. Prior to Gantz’s entry into politics, polls had shown Yesh Atid as many as 27 seats.
The Jewish Home party would rise from 8 seats to 11, while the predominantly Arab Joint List would fall from 13 to 11.
The Zionist Union party, an amalgamation of Labor and the smaller Hatnuah faction of former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, would win just 9 seats, compared to the 24 it won in 2015.
Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, which bolted the government last month, would win five seats, one less than it won in 2015 but the same number of seats it currently holds, after MK Orly Levy left the faction in 2016.
Among the hared factions, the United Torah Judaism party would gain a single mandate, rising from six to seven, while the Sephardic haredi party Shas would barely cross the electoral threshold with four seats, compared to the seven it currently holds.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s centrist Kulanu faction would drop from 10 seats to 6 if new elections were held today, while the far-left Meretz part would rise from 5 to 6 seats.
MK Orly Levy, who broke off from Yisrael Beytenu in 2016 in protest of its decision to join the Likud-led coalition, would win six seats at the helm of a new party, the poll showed.
While the poll shows Netanyahu would be the candidate best-positioned to secure a majority as premier in the 21st Knesset, his current coalition partners would be unable to put together the necessary 61-seat majority.
The current coalition partners would win a cumulative 58 seats, the poll shows, three short of a majority.
If Yisrael Beytenu were to return to the government, Netanyahu would have a majority – albeit a narrower majority than his coalition enjoyed prior to Yisrael Beytenu’s departure in November. While the coalition had 66 seats for most of its term, even with Yisrael Beytenu in the next coalition, the poll shows the government with only 63 seats, just two more than the minimum needed.