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Final surveys show ongoing deadlock, with Likud rise offset by strong Joint List

Two final surveys ahead of Monday’s Israeli elections predicted ongoing deadlock, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his challenger Benny Gantz able to muster a Knesset majority.

A Channel 12 survey showed the Netanyahu-led right-Orthodox bloc winning 58 seats, just three short of a Knesset majority, to 56 for Gantz’s center-left-Arab bloc.

A Channel 13 survey, by contrast, put the Netanyahu-led bloc on 56, with the Gantz-led bloc on 57.

If the results on March 2 are along these lines, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party would again be the kingmaker, having prevented the formation of a majority government after elections last April and September. And if his stance again meant neither bloc could form a coalition, Israel could be headed to a fourth election in the fall.

Strikingly, in both surveys, the vote for the mostly Arab Joint List was up, with that party winning 14 seats in the Channel 12 poll and 15 seats in the Channel 13 poll. Channel 13 said its survey indicated a likely high 65% turnout among Israeli Arab voters. Their turnout was at some 50% last April and 60% in September.

The surveys reflected a gradual improvement in the performance of Netanyahu’s Likud in recent days, but still left the prime minister short of a Knesset majority. In part, Likud’s gains were offset in the latest polls by the rise of the Joint List.

The Channel 12 poll was as follows: Likud 35 seats, Blue and White 33, Joint List 14, Labor-Gesher-Meretz 9, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 8, Yamina 7, and Yisrael Beytenu 6.

The Channel 13 poll was slightly different: Likud 33 seats, Blue and White 33, Joint List 15, Labor-Gesher-Meretz 9, Shas 8, Yamina 8, United Torah Judaism 7, and Yisrael Beytenu 7.

Asked who is best to serve as prime minister, 44 percent backed Netanyahu in the Channel 12 survey to just 32% for Gantz. In the Channel 13 survey, 45% backed Netanyahu and 35% supported Gantz.

Seven percent of those surveyed by Channel 12 said they might not vote because of fears of the coronavirus.

A survey by the Kan public broadcaster gave Likud 35 seats to Blue and White’s 34. The Israel Hayom newspaper in its own survey gave both Likud and Blue and White 33 seats each, while a third poll from the Maariv newspaper gave each of the two parties 34 seats.

Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing and religious parties would win 58 seats compared to 56 held by Blue and White leader Gantz at the head of a center-left-Arab bloc, according to the Kan results. Israel Hayom gave Netanyahu’s bloc 57 seats to Gantz’s 56, as did Maariv.

According to these polls, too, Liberman still holds the balance of power, with Kan giving him six seats and the other two polls both finding the hawkish secularist party would win seven seats, enough to carry either bloc to a majority.

Liberman has vowed to not sit in a coalition with the Joint List, which has similarly said it will not partner with him. Blue and White has repeatedly said it will not form a government that relies on the Joint List. Without the Joint List, Gantz’s bloc is at best around 50 seats, even with Liberman’s support. Liberman has also vowed not to partner with Netanyahu.