Possible Gantz-Lapid merger widens lead on Netanyahu: i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
A centrist alliance between former IDF chief Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and former finance minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party continued to mount the most formidable challenge to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s otherwise seemingly certain victory in Israel’s upcoming national elections, a joint i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll published Sunday found.
The results of the poll came with Gantz and Lapid reportedly deep in negotiations over merging their factions and running on a joint ticket in a deal that, according to a report by Channel 12 on Saturday night, could see the two take turns chairing the alliance.
According to the i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll, an alliance of that nature would earn 42 seats to Likud’s 35 seats.
But with no centrist alliance announced, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud maintained a firm lead over all political rivals earning 30 seats, leaving Gantz’s Israel Resilience trailing at 21 seats on a solo run.
The poll projected Lapid’s Yesh Atid earning 14 seats on an independent ticket, followed by the Joint (Arab) List with 11 seats, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) with 9 seats, and former Education Minister Naftali Bennett and former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s ‘New Right’ party and the left-wing Meretz faction with 7 seats apiece.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party was projected to earn 6 seats and Avi Gabbay’s Labor faction, which has fallen dramatically in the polls since its shocking split from the once-mighty Zionist Union alliance, was projected to earn only 5 seats, along with Orly Levy-Abekasis’ center-left ‘Gesher’ (‘Bridge’) party, the poll found.
-- Centrist merger draws broad support --
Speculation that Gantz and Lapid would announce a merger has been rife in the run-up to the April 9 vote. The two parties share a broadly similar platform, with security and progressive secular values as the basis for an ouster of a Netanyahu government that has veered decidedly toward the right of Israel’s political spectrum.
A centrist alliance between Gantz and Lapid, bolstered by the inclusion of former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi (rumored to be eyeing a spot on the fellow ex-army chief’s ticket) has been well-received by center-left voters seeking a viable challenger to Netanyahu amid a highly fragmented political playing field.
According to the poll, the prospective Ganz-led alliance is favored by 67% of past Yesh Atid voters, 55% of past Zionist Union voters, 30% of past Kulanu voters, and 23% of past Meretz voters.
The merger even drew support from 15% of past Likud voters, 11% of past Jewish Home voters, and 9% of past Yisrael Beitenu voters, as well as 7% of past Joint (Arab) List voters.
Likud, in the face of the centrist alliance, retained 63% of past Likud voters while drawing support from 21% of past Kulanu voters, 13% of past Jewish Home voters, 10% of past Yesh Atid voters, 9% of past Yisrael Beitenu voters, but only 3% of past Zionist Union voters.
Gantz, a newcomer to politics, has tread carefully in the run-up to the vote making a concerted effort to remain firmly on the center of the election’s most hot-button issues. The results of the poll suggests that Gantz’s efforts to remain a centrist have been more or less successful.
According to the poll, 55% of Israelis consider the Israel Resilience party to be centrist, while 28% of respondents think it as left-wing, and 17% think of it as right-wing.
The i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll found that Israel Resilience drew voters mainly from the now defunct Zionist Union (32%), Yesh Atid (19%), Meretz (17%), Kulanu (12%), Likud and Jewish Home (4% each).
-- Breakaway winners and losers --
The fragmented nature of Israel's proportional representation system means the months ahead of elections will be hard-fought, with alliances formed and broken as politicians try to navigate the minefield of uncertain public opinion.
Major breakaways have rocked both sides of Israel’s political spectrum in the few months since early elections were called in December, seven months before they had been due to be held, leaving a crowded playing field.
The most dramatic split was the live television breakup of the Zionist Union, the second-largest party in the previous parliament. According to Sunday’s i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll, both Gabbay and Livni have lost majorly as a result of the dissolution of their acrimonious partnership.
As it stands today, neither Gabbay’s Labor nor Livni’s Hatnuah parties are projected to earn seats in the next parliament.
Labor, now setting out alone, is favored by only 14% of past Zionist Union supporters, according to the i24NEWS-Israel Hayom poll, while Hatnuah drew only 3% of former Zionist Union voters.
According to the poll, Labor’s only shot at redemption is a merger with the left-wing Meretz faction -- a partnership Gabbay is reportedly not keen to pursue.
A Labour/Meretz alliance was supported by 49% of past Meretz voters and 25% of past Zionist Union voters, according to the poll.
On the right, the Jewish Home is also facing a shut-out of the next parliament having lost 26% to the breakaway New Right party launched by its former leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, the poll found.
It’s only redemption would be a merger with the far-right National Union party, according to the poll, but talks towards a partnership between the two collapsed over the weekend.
Among still-undecided voters, 24% had previously cast ballots for Jewish Home and 19% for the Zionist Union.
The jointly commissioned i24NEWS-Israel Hayom survey was conducted by the Maagar Mochot Research Institute using a structured questionnaire among a representative sample of 706 Israeli adults (out of 3,421 total respondents), allowing for conclusions to be drawn with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of +/- 3.7% (relative to various estimates).
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