All still to play for, poll shows

Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett  Flash 90

Benjamin Netanyahu does not have the election in his pocket, and the battle with Naftali Bennett could get bloody.

Contrary to the widespread assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has election victory in his pocket, the latest Rafi Smith Institute poll for "Globes" indicates that the election is wide open. A month before polling day, Hamahane Hatzioni and Likud are running neck and neck with 24 projected Knesset seats each.

The opinion polls show the current situation, but cannot really prophesy what will happen in the last ten days of the election campaign. In 2009, the polls projected 19 seats for Kadima ten days before the end. Under Tzipi Livni, the party reached the finishing line with 28 seats. The drama of Yair Lapid in the last election less than two years ago is still fresh in the memory.

In another three weeks, money time will start. The movement of seats in the last two weeks could be dramatic. Anything could happen. Netanyahu now understands what was said here two months ago: if he wants to win the election, he has to be bigger than Hamahane Hatzioni. Hamahane Hatzioni leader Isaac Herzog, incidentally, has still not realized that what will count is not the right or left block. The name of the game is which will be the largest party, and all's fair in attaining the goal, even stealing votes within the block.

Netanyahu's visit to the West Bank settlement of Eli, deep in Habayit Hayehudi territory, demonstrates the pressure Likud is under. The prime minister only crosses the Green Line when there's an election, or sadly when there's a funeral. While everyone is following the saga of whether or not he will speak in the US Congress, Netanyahu's mind is mainly troubled by internal surveys by the ruling party and at least one additional party predicting that the Likud will lag Hamahane Hatzioni by several seats. To put that right, he decided to push hard the question of the size of the party and the block. He did it in Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett's backyard. Likud is not currently managing to lift the number of seats it looks like winning, and so it has no choice but to sharpen its stance towards Bennett. For the time being, the campaign is positive, but that might change later on. To win the election within 30 days Netanyahu has to gain at least another four seats for Likud. He may be left with no option but to take off the gloves viv-a-vis Bennett.

Poll results

If an election were held today, for which party would you vote?

(Results in terms of Knesset seats, first the current poll, followed by the result of the January 28 poll, and, in parentheses, the number of seats in the current Knesset).

Likud 24, 24 (31)*

Yisrael Beitenu 5, 6 (-)

Yesh Atid 9, 9 (19)

Hamahane Hatzioni (Labor-Hatenuah) 24, 25 (21)

Habayit Hayehudi 13, 16 (12)

Arab list 12, 12 (11)

Shas 8, 8 (11)

Yahad (Eli Yishai) 4, 0, (-)

United Torah Judaism 7, 8 (7)

Meretz 5, 5 (6)

Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon) 8, 8 (-)

*jointly with Yisrael Beitenu in last election.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 12, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett  Flash 90
Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett Flash 90
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