Aryeh Deri spooks Likud

Moshe Kahlon's departure has had little effect on the governing party, but Shas could surge under Deri.

The fears in the Likud party of the effect of the departure of Minister of Communications Moshe Kahlon on the number of seats the party will win in the upcoming election have proved unjustified. A poll carried out by the Rafi Smith Institute for "Globes" in the two days following Kahlon's announcement that he was quitting politics shows that his exit has had no real electoral effect. The Likud has not been substantially harmed, dropping just one seat in comparison with last month's poll, which gave it 28 seats. That's something that could easily have happened even without Kahlon's announcement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be much more concerned about the return of Aryeh Deri to Shas. On the one hand, the gap between Deri and incumbent head Eli Yishai at the head of the haredi (ultra-orthodox) party is just two seats; Yishai brings the party 11 seats, versus 13 under Deri. On the other hand, this is a 20% addition to Shas's strength in the Knesset, and that is very significant. Deri can wave this poll in front of Shas's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and prove to him that he is not just a symbol, not just image, but someone who achieves results on the ground. If he were to run with an independent list, he would mainly take votes from Shas, but putting him at the head of the Shas list not only strengthens the party, but also takes two seats from Likud, cutting it to 25. Netanyahu needs to stop smiling. The departure of Kahlon and the return of Deri are liable to take him to places where he does not want to go.

Shas waits

A decision in the Shas party will apparently be made this evening or tomorrow. For the next three months, both Deri and Yishai will be happy. The pair will serve as joint chairmen of the party up until the election. They will divide authority between them. They will conduct coalition negotiations together. Who will be responsible for party finances is another question, but the important question is who will be chosen to lead the party in the elections and afterwards. This poll is also encouraging for Yishai. A difference of two seats is small, and he too can go with the poll to the rabbi. "Until the election," he will say, "anything can happen."

Contrary to party leader Shelly Yachimovich's predictions, Labor has not surpassed the 20 seats mark. It remains on just 18.

The big leap has been recorded by Yair Lapid, and this was even before he officially revealed any names on his list. Yesh Atid's 14 seats in the "Globes"-Smith poll raise the question whether in the months remaining Lapid will succeed in closing the gap on the target he set himself, and add eight seats for his list.

Kadima will find no comfort in this poll. After recent polls predicting up to eight seats, it has slumped again to three, obviating the need to set up a committee to position candidates on the list.

If the Knesset election were held today, for which party would you vote?
Results in numbers of seats for each party:

Likud 25
Labor 18
Israel Beitenu 15
Yesh Atid 14
Shas 13 (under Arye Deri)
Arab parties 7
Kadima 3
United Torah Judaism 6
Ichud Leumi 4
Habayit Hayehudi - New National Religious Party 5
Meretz 4
Ha'atzmaut 2
Hadash 4

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