Knesset Jeremy’s Weekly Average – The Israeli Poll of Polls
Knesset Jeremy Weekly Average #10 (week of Feb 1-Feb 7 2015) of 9 polls from 6 polling companies (2 Maagar Mochot, 2 Panels, 2 Teleseker, 1 Smith, 1 Dialog, 1 Midgam, 0 Geocartography, Sarid, TRI, New Wave)
(Last Week in brackets), current Knesset seats in [brackets]
1st 25.3 (24.4)  Likud
2nd 23.6 (25.2)  Zionist Union (Labor+Livni)
3rd 13.0 (14.7)  Bayit Yehudi
4th 12.0 (12.0)  United Arab List
5th 10.4 (09.4)  Yesh Atid
6th 07.5 (07.7)  Koolanu (Kahlon+Kadima)
7th 07.2 (07.1)  Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ
8th 06.5 (07.1)  Shas
9th 05.4 (05.4)  Yisrael Beitenu
10th 05.2 (05.3)  Meretz
11th 03.8 (03.3)  Yachad (Yishai+Chetboun+Marzel)
68.6 (68.0)  Right-Religious-Kahlon (Parties that have not ruled out nominating a BB coalition)
51.3 (52.0)  Center-Left-Arab (Parties that have ruled out nominating a BB coalition)
Changes: Likud replaces Zionist Union as the largest party.
Largest Gains: Yesh Atid gained 1 seat; Likud gained 0.9 of a seat and Yachad 0.5.
Biggest Losses: Bayit Yehudi dropped 1.7 seats; Zionist Union dropped 1.6 seats & Shas lost 0.6 of a seat.
Knesset Jeremy Analysis – Week 10:
1 – Herzog’s Bad Week
Politics is a roller-coaster ride. In Israel we have a short election cycle. So here, our rollercoaster ride is running on fast-forward. Labor was averaging 13.4 seats in the polls when the election cycle officially started during the first week of December. That was 1.6 seats under the 15 seats Shelly Yachomich captured in 2013 and 0.4 of a seat over Ehud Barak’s 2009 showing. The following week Opposition Leader Herzog joined in an alliance with recently fired Justice Minister Livni. Herzog jumped from 13.4 seats without Livni to 22.2 seats with Livni. The alliance that went through a few name changes (Labor-Livni/Zionist Camp/Zionist Union) instantly became the largest party in the polls.
Following the dramatic shift of power between week 1 and week 2, Herzog and Netanyahu’s Likud ran neck-and-neck in a majority of polls taken between week 3 and week 8. Both lists took turns at the top, but overall Herzog had a slight lead. Herzog’s joint ticket peaked in week 9 with 25.2. However, this week the Zionist Union dropped 1.6 seats, but this wasn’t the worst news Herzog had this week.
Herzog doubled down on Manuel Trajtenberg as his candidate for Finance Minister. Trajtenberg is Herzog’s Eli Ochana. The socialist base of the Labor Party that backs MKs such as former leaders Shelly Yachomovich and Amir Peretz look at Trajtenberg as the the Netanyahu government’s rubber stamp for economic policy. The base was already not happy with Herzog for overlooking in-house options for the senior three ministry portfolios (Livni, Yadliin) but Trajtenberg added insult to injury.
The thing is that Herzog’s appointment of Trajtenberg to a reserved spot on his list and using him as the economic face of the party is more of a coalition building problem then an internal issue. Appearing on Channel 2 news earlier this week, an angry Livni said: “It is us or him. I expect you (Lapid) to inform the public that you commit to recommend us in order to stop Netanyahu”. Lapid refused to answer. Lapid has announced he wants to keep the Finance portfolio, so why would he do Herzog-Livni a favor? Kahlon, a former Likud minister, has also said he is running to be Finance Minister, so why would Koolanu voice any support for a future Herzog administration? Meanwhile Netanyahu has avoided making any promises when it comes to what has become such a key portfolio for the coalition building process.
It wasn’t just the polls and Trajtenberg that made this the worst week of the 10-week campaign election cycle for Herzog. Liberman, Litzman and Deri ruled out a Herzog led government this week in various interviews. The dream of a Herzog government without Likud is over. Herzog’s silver lining is that the three are not ruling out a national unity government, but the reality of a national unity government with Netanyahu and Herzog is not considered likely at this point in time.
Another issue Herzog dealt with this week was the restructuring of his field campaign staff due to internal conflicts within the party. The restructuring unfolded as rumors of heated disagreements on key issues between Herzog and Livni emerged. Herzog ends this week with one ally left – Meretz, a party that is now fighting to stay over the new electoral threshold.
2 – Prime Minister: The three phase process and the importance of my bloc polling
The Prime Minister is chosen based on a process that includes three phases. In the first phase we have the electoral elections. The lists that are elected go on to the second phase which is nominating a candidate for Prime Minister at the President’s residence. The third phase is the newly elected Knesset voting to approve the new government with a minimum requirement of 61 seats.
At this point in the first phase we have two candidates for Prime Minister: Netanyahu & Herzog-Livni. Netanyahu’s Likud (25.3) has secured Bayit Yehudi (13.0) and Yachad (03.8) during the first phase. Herzog’s Zionist Union (23.6) has so far only secured Meretz (05.2). The United Arab List (12.0) might consider nominating Herzog in phase 2 but has ruled out voting for a Herzog (or any Zionist government) in phase 3. They might be in the game for the President’s residence but they are out of the game for approving any coalition. It is for this reason that I placed the Arab List in the ‘Parties that have ruled out nominating a BB coalition’ bloc.
Of the 11 lists that are running in this election, this leaves us five parties in the middle. Yesh Atid (10.4) is not going to nominate Netanyahu to President Rivlin. It is just not going to happen. Lapid really does not like Netanyahu. Lapid is not married to Herzog either. If Herzog has no shot at forming a government, Lapid could end up in some long-shot scenarios in a Netanyahu government, assuming Netanyahu has 61 seats without him, to avoid sitting in the opposition. It is for this reason that I placed Yesh Atid in the ‘Parties that have ruled out nominating a BB coalition’ bloc. The other four lists (Koolanu, Shas, UTJ & Yisrael Beitenu) ‘have not ruled out nominating a BB coalition’ bloc’. They might go to the President’s house without nominating Netanyahu but they haven’t ruled out negotiations to join his coalition, either with Herzog or without him. Historically, party leaders usually make a decision to nominate during phase 2 after receiving a concrete promise for a top portfolio from one of the Prime Minister candidates.
A lot can happen between phase 1 and phase 2, as well as between phase 2 and phase 3. In 2013, Livni didn’t nominate Netanyahu in phase 2 but was the first to sign a coalition agreement with him for phase 3. Shas & UTJ nominated Netanyahu in phase 2 and ended up in the opposition. In 2009, Livni gave a victory speech since Kadima won 28 seats in phase 1, but she couldn’t get any other party to nominate her in phase 2. Netanyahu won 27 seats in phase 1, but left the President’s house with the nomination of 65 MKs. Netanyahu’s maneuvers between phase 2 and phase 3 included bringing in Labor, who was to the left of Livni, and leaving out the National Union who nominated him for Prime Minister.
This bloc is not meant to say that this will be the next Netanyahu government by any means. This technical bloc that I have been putting at the bottom of all of my polls has a different level of importance. If the Likud-Bayit Yehudi-Yachad-Koolanu-Shas-UTJ-Yisrael Beitenu bloc has less than 61 seats, there will be no way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a new government.
3 – Eli Yishai’s Yachad Party & Shas Internal Politics
I was sitting with a person this week and he labeled Yishai’s joint list Yachad a collection of the ‘right-wing misfits’. It is a joint list of outcast MKs, Yishai is former Shas, Chetboun is former Bayit Yehudi, Marzel is sitting in for former MK Ben Ari and you also have a collection of smaller splinter groups that have made their way into unrealistic spots on their list. Yachad is now passing the new threshold in 8 of the 9 polls that were conducted this week, just missing threshold in the ninth poll. They are a protest vote for a collection of different communities from Sephardim to Chardal voters to Chabad to former Kahana supporters.
Shas has taken a dip this week. It is not just about Eli Yishai. The younger generation is disappointed that Former Minister Ariel Attias did not return to the list. The Bukharim are upset that MK Amnon Cohen is not on the list. The old right-wing establishment are upset MK Nissim Zeev, one of the party’s founders, is not on the list. Naming a leftist, Yitzchak Cohen, as Deri’s #2 was not a popular move in the right-wing camps of the party either. Former Yishai fans in the party are disgruntled and feel that former Yishai loyalist MK Avraham Michaeli was punished when he was placed in the 8th position behind all of the other returning Shas MKs. The northern supporters also expressed dissatisfaction with the placement of their representative, veteran MK Yitzchak Vaknin, at #7.
4 – Week 11 Preview
The election is in less than 40 days. The ground game is expected to pick up this week. Likud and Zionist Union are going to try to keep the focus on their head-to-head match-up. Bayit Yehudi is going to look to bounce back after a terrible two weeks of polling. The United Arab List is going to keep working on their plans to get out their vote. Yesh Atid is going to look to keep up their positive momentum which has brought them back to double-digits. Koolanu is going to attack Yesh Atid for centrist votes. UTJ is still focused on their internal organization for Election Day. The smaller parties (Shas, Yisrael Beitenu, Meretz and Yachad) will be fighting for screen-time.
For more analysis on the ‘Poll of Polls’ you can catch my weekly radio interview on Sundays with Gil Hoffman on Voice of Israel.com