Even as Israel gears up for the fourth general election in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slowly edging ahead of the rivals, the latest opinion polls show. However, even the latest surveys do not clearly show that either of the parties in the fray will be able to form a coalition government, an outcome that can prolong the electoral stalemate further on.
A poll conducted by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv newspapers showed that Netanyahu's Likud is comfortably leading all other parties in the final week before the election. The Israeli general election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday.
The poll gives 30 seats for Netanyahu's Likud, which is a gain of three seats from the last week's poll. Yesh Atid has dropped from 20 seats to 19, while Yamina has slided from 11 to 10 and New Hope from 10 to eight, the JPost reported.
No Bloc Likely to Form a Coalition
However, the biggest loser, if the election was conducted this week, would be Gideon Sa'ar's New Hope party, which was just five seats away from Likud earlier. Now the party is tied at the fourth place with Joint List, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu, projected to win only 8 seats.
The poll said United Torah Judaism would win six seats while Labor, the Religious Zionist Party and Blue and White would win five each. Meretz and Ra'am United Arab List will win four seats each, the survey said,
The finding of the survey is that neither the pro-Netanyahu coalition or the anti-Netanyahu bloc is likely to be able to form a coalition government. Each bloc is projected to win 49 seats, needing them to look for support from Ra'am.
For Netanyahu, the challenge is to stitch together a majority coalition by pulling in at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu has been in power for more than 12 years, but has faced stiff resistance in the recent years.
Why 4 Elections in 2 Years?
The Israeli election 2021 was necessitated by the fall of the current coalition following the differences of opinion between Netanyahu and major coalition partner Benny Gantz of the Blue and White alliance over the budget 2020. The Knesset was dissolved on December 22 .
The previous election was in March 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. While no coalition was able to put together a government, Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz' Blue and White eventually came together to form the government.
It was reported that Gantz was supposed to become the prime minister in November 2021 under the deal, but Israeli political watchers were skeptical about the chances of the government lasting that long.
Interestingly, the Blue and White had got 33 seats against Likud's 32 in the elections held in September 2019. However, the Blue and White was unsuccessful in forming a government. necessitating a third election to end the impasse. Yet another election was held in April that year, which was also unsuccessful in returning a clear mandate.
Who are Netanyahu's Main Rivals?
While the right wing Likud leader is by far the most popular leader in Israel, the electoral field is full of minor but key players who can exert tremendous influence in the formation of the next government. In that respect, Netanyahu's chief rivals are former Likud politician Gideon Sa'ar and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Benny Gantz of the Blue and White has also said he will try to support leaders other than Netanyahu to form the next government.
Gideon Sa'ar founded the New Hope party in December, with the declared intent to form coalition excluding Netanyahu. Sa'ar had earlier served as the education minister in a previous Netanyahu government. He had also ran against Netanyahu for Likud party's leadership in 2019.
At the moment, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid has emerged as a strong contender against Netanyahu. The latest polls show his party is likely to get the second highest number of seats in Tuesday's election. Besides, Gantz has also said he will support Lapid to form a government.