Far-right Otzma Yehudit shown winning seats for first time

Itamar Ben-Gvir

With ten days to go until Israel's election, voting has shifted on the right, but Avigdor Liberman still looks set to be kingmaker.

With Israel's second general election within six months due to take place in ten days' time, the far-right Otzma Yehudit party has for the first time passed the threshold for winning Knesset seats, according to polls published by the Knesset Channel and Israel Today-i24 News at the end of last week. A survey published by Ma'ariv-FM103 on Friday showed the party, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, still failing to gain enough votes to win any seats in the Knesset. The indications that Otzma Yehudit might pass the electoral threshold is encouraging news for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since the right-wing/haredi block thereby strengthens and moves closer to the possibility of forming a governing coalition without the support of Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitenu party. Liberman has said he will not sit in a government with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) parties. On the other hand, in the Israel Today poll, Yamina, led by Ayelet Shaked, weakens to eight projected Knesset seats and Likud is on 31 seats, leaving the block with just 58 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.

The Israel Today poll shows the Democratic Union party collapsing to four seats, while Labor-Gesher stays at six seats, the level it has been at for most of the campaign. Ben-Gvir appears to have taken votes from Ayelet Shaked, but his improved showing also seems to be attributable to a weakening of the left-wing parties. Netanyahu would certainly prefer Ben-Gvir to drop out of the race and see the votes for his party transfer to Likud, helping to maintain its status as the largest party in the Knesset, but on the other hand he would not wish to see its votes go to waste through the party failing to win the minimum required.

It may be that on the left, voters are starting to realize that there is a chance of unseating Netanyahu, and are prepared to put ideology to one side and to vote strategically for the Blue and White list as the best way of achieving that aim. If such a drift gathers pace towards the election date, one party on the left could be wiped out. Up to now, the likeliest victim in such a scenario has been Labor-Gesher, but at this stage it is the Democratic Union list that is teetering on the brink, while Labor-Gesher is managing to stay one or two seats above the electoral threshold.

Liberman receives 9-11 seats in the two latest polls, but in any event keeps his status as kingmaker in the next round of coalition bargaining. He appears determined to force the formation of a unity government with Likud and Blue and White, without the haredi parties.

The projected election results below, in terms of Knesset seats for each party, are based upon an average of the following polls:

Israel Today-i24 News, September 6
Ma'ariv-FM103, September 6
Channel 13 News, September 5
Channel 12 News, September 5
Knesset Channel, September 5

Likud- 32
Blue and White - 31
Joint Arab List - 10
Yisrael Beitenu - 10
Yamina - 9
United Torah Judaism - 8
Shas 7
Democratic Union - 6
Labor-Gesher - 6
Otzma Yehudit - 0

Because of the averaging process, the projected results do not necessarily total 120, the number of seats in the Knesset.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 8, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Itamar Ben-Gvir
Itamar Ben-Gvir
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