Six days before Israelis head to the polls, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his challengers, Herzog-Livni, are closer than ever. According to a new survey, most Israelis support a continued peace process, but don’t think it will succeed — regardless of who is at the helm.
The past two-and-a-half months of campaigning leading up to next week’s elections have been cast as a choice between “us and them,” between the stability of an incumbent and the change offered by his challenger.
While the latest polls show Israelis almost evenly split — both among so-called Left and Right blocs, but also among those supporting either Benjamin Netanyahu or his challengers, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni — the public at large doesn’t actually expect much change, regardless of who wins the election.
Nearly 60 percent of those polled said they believe there will be no progress on the peace process regardless of who forms the next government, “because there is no solution to the disputes between the two sides.”According to a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), a full full two-thirds of Jewish respondents said they agreed that no progress will be made.
An identical number of respondents (taking into consideration the margin of error) said they support continuing to hold peace negotiations. Maintaining the contradictions that have become so enshrined in public polling on the peace process, however, 65 percent of respondents said they do not believe such negotiations will lead to peace in the coming years.
The IDI poll also found a significant gap in the public’s hopes and expectations regarding the elections. While 38 percent of those polls said they want a center-Left bloc to form the next government, only 23.7 percent said the center-Left has a better chance of forming a ruling coalition than the Right. Roughly one-fifth of the respondents, however, were undecided or declined to answer.
The two main candidates, Netanyahu’s Likud and Herzog and Livni’s Zionist Camp, are closer than ever in the most recent polls, as published by Project 61, an independent polling project that aggregates and attempts to correct biases in the major pre-election surveys.
The Zionist Camp has a slight lead over Likud, but the possible blocs necessary for forming a government are closer than ever. A possible center-Left coalition consisting of the Zionist Camp, Yesh Atid, Meretz and Kulanu would garner 47 out of the necessary 61 seats according to the polls. A right-wing bloc, made up of the Likud, Jewish Home, Israel Beitenu and Kulanu was polling at a total of 46 seats.
The two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ), who are both expected to be willing to sit in either a right-wing or center-left government, together poll at 15 seats. This could push either of the two potential blocs over the 61-seat threshold.
But the real battle will take place before the coalition-building process begins, when the president, after polling all of the parties to see who they support, will decided which candidate gets an opportunity to form a government.
At that stage, and if a Herzog-Livni government has any chance, the support of the Joint List’s projected 15 seats will be vital. Although the joint list of Arab parties may be disinclined to support the Zionist Union after it voted to disqualify Balad MK Haneen Zoabi from running — a decision that was later vetoed by the Supreme Court — President Rivlin has indicated that he will not accept an abstention from any parties when it comes to recommending a candidate to form the government. In such a case, it is highly unlikely that the Joint List would recommend Netanyahu over Herzog-Livni.
Six days before the elections, it’s anyone’s game. But as the IDI poll showed, it’s not clear the result will affect much.