Despite security concerns dominating the headlines, Likud-Beytenu has lost a seat in the latest poll.
Surprisingly, in two weeks dominated by security concerns, Likud-Beytenu has slipped by one Knesset seat to 33 seats in the latest poll by Rafi Smith for “Globes”. It’s too early to draw conclusions. It’s not clear whether this is the start of a trend or a temporary mood, but what is certain is that this is a phenomenon no less surprising than world champion Spain’s ejection from the World Cup in the group stage. Spain won all the titles in recent years, and seemed invincible. In retrospect, the commentators are saying that it was knocked out because it relied on the stars of the past, on tactics that were successful four years ago. The world champion failed to bring in new blood, failed to innovate, didn’t understand that what worked in 2010 wouldn’t necessarily work again four years later.
Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t really fond of sport, but his aides can explain the analogy to him. Although it looks at the moment as though there is no alternative to Netanyahu as prime minister, if after two weeks in which security was all people talked about Likud Beytenu loses a projected seat, his party is entitled to be worried. At the moment, he is managing to preserve a large gap between him and any rival, and looks impressively stable at the top, but, just as in the World Cup, it’s one thing to get to the top, and another to stay there.
The slogan of a strong prime minister in the face of Hamas, that worked wonderfully well in the 2009 election, sound a little ridiculous when it turns out that a terrorist whom Netanyahu freed in the Gilad Shalit deal murdered the late Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi on Seder night. It seems that Netanyahu has not switched his message sheet for five years, and voters are starting to look for alternatives. The prime minister has apparently seen similar numbers in his own polls, and privately estimates that in the fall Knesset session a decision will be made to bring elections forward. He has May 2015 marked in his diary.
For the time being, Netanyahu can take comfort in the fact that while he may have lost one seat, Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi has gone down by two. Confounding the expectation that a security incident will strengthen the right, it turns out that the Israeli public is not making a mass right turn, preferring to sit on the fence. The uncertainty over the kidnapped youngsters raises the political uncertainty level. The “Globes”-Smith poll indicates that one in five of the electorate does not know whom to vote for. The “I haven’t a clue” party has grown by five Knesset seats in the past month.
The public refuses to panic. The Abu Mazen-Hamas link doesn’t frighten it, it has not lost its head over the kidnapping, and sees no reason to shift rightwards. On the contrary. 38% of the public believe that despite the fact that Palestinian Authority president Abu Mazen has forged ties with Hamas, there is value in renewing talks with the Palestinians, even if they go nowhere. On the left, there is still a romantic notion that negotiations could get somewhere. 71% of center-left party voters believe that dialogue should be resumed, but when 35% of Likud-Beytenu voters also think that that is the way to go, it looks as though the public sees it as being in Israel’s interests. That doesn’t mean it wants a result.
If a Knesset election were held today, for which party would you vote? (Results shown as projected Knesset seats for each party in current poll, followed in parentheses by result in previous poll in May, and actual seats in current Knesset.)
Likud Beytenu 33 (34) (31)
Yesh Atid 13 (15) (19)
Labor 17 (17) (15)
Habayit Hayehudi 13 (15) (12)
Shas 11 (10) (11)
United Torah Judaism 8 (8) (7)
Hatenua 4 (0) (6)
Meretz 9 (9) (6)
Kadima 0 (0) (2)
Hadash 5 (4) (4)
Ra’am-Ta’al 4 (4) (4)
National Democratic Assembly 3 (4) (3)