Knesset Jeremy’s Weekly Average – The Israeli Poll of Polls

Knesset Jeremy Weekly Average #11 (week of Feb 8-Feb 14 2015) of 7 polls from 4 leading polling companies (2 Panels, 2 Teleseker, 2 Smith, 1 Dialog, 0 Midgam, Maagar Mochot, Geocartography, Sarid, TRI, New Wave)

(Last Week in brackets), current Knesset seats in [brackets]

1st 24.4 (25.3) [18] Likud

2nd 23.2 (23.6) [20] Zionist Union (Labor+Livni)

3rd 12.4 (13.0) [11] Bayit Yehudi

4th 12.4 (12.0) [11] The Joint (Arab) List

5th 10.1 (10.4) [20] Yesh Atid

6th 08.0 (07.5) [02] Koolanu (Kahlon+Kadima)

7th 07.0 (07.2) [07] Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ

8th 06.8 (06.5) [10] Shas

9th 05.8 (05.4) [13] Yisrael Beitenu

10th 05.1 (05.2) [06] Meretz

11th 04.4 (03.8) [02] Yachad (Yishai+Chetboun+Marzel)

69.0 (68.6) [63] Right-Religious-Kahlon (Parties that have not ruled out nominating a Netanyahu coalition)

51.0 (51.3) [57] Center-Left-Arab (Parties that have ruled out nominating a Netanyahu coalition)

*Note #1: Marzel & Zoabi are currently disqualified but Supreme Court has yet to have final say.

* Note #2: Results including the two polling companies that released their first polls of the election cycle and are not expected to carry out additional polls (Times of Israel’s 202 Strategies and Sekernet): Likud 24.4, Zionist Union23.6, Bayit Yehudi 12.1, The Joint (Arab) List 12.1, Yesh Atid 10.1, Koolanu 8.3, UTJ 7.1, Shas 6.5, Yisrael Beitenu 6.0, Meretz 5.0, Yachad 4.5. There is no change in placement compared to the regular poll of poll results and no party has a change of more than 0.4 of a seat on the average.

Changes: The Joint (Arab) List has tied Bayit Yehudi as the third largest party.

Largest Gains: Yachad gained 0.6 of a seat; Koolanu gained 0.5 of a seat and both The Joint (Arab) List and Yisrael Beitenu gained 0.4.

Biggest Losses: Likud dropped 0.9 of a seat; Bayit Yehudi dropped 0.6 of a seat & Zionist Union lost 0.4 of a seat.

Knesset Jeremy Analysis – Week 11:

1 – President Rivlin sets the ground rules for Phase 2: Race goes from a head-to-head war to a bloc war

Last week we discussed the 3-Phase process to the Prime Minister House. Phase 1 – Elections (seats). Phase 2 – President’s Residence (nomination). Phase 3 – Knesset vote (61 MKs needed).

Most analysts have been focusing on Phase 2 because President Rivlin chose to not be so clear on how he will conduct that process. Rivlin’s decision this week to announce he plans to pressure all parties to choose a preference turns the election from a head-to-head war to a bloc war.

Previously the thought process was that parties such as Koolanu, Yisrael Beitenu, UTJ and Shas could get away by saying they prefer a national unity government or say they do not have a preference between Netanyahu and Herzog. Rivlin’s insistence to force an answer out of each party leader will reduce the wiggle room each of these parties has.

Only six (Likud-Bayit Yehudi-Yachad vs Zionist Union-Yesh Atid-Meretz) of the eleven lists that are expected to be elected to the next Knesset have made their positions on Phase 2 clear, with a seventh (Joint Arab List) making it clear they will never nominate or vote for a Netanyahu government. Of course parties such as Yesh Atid have implied their Phase 2 preference does not necessarily indicate what their Phase 3 plans. Rivlin’s move is meant to force the other parties to announce their Phase 2 plans before the election. The move could also convince parties that have made commitments on Phase 2, but are non-committal about Phase 3, to announce their intentions before the election as well.

Both Likud and the Zionist Union are frustrated by this announcement because the head-to-head argument was helping the two largest lists in the polls during the last few weeks. Rivlin’s move could help parties that are polling close to the electoral threshold such as Meretz and Yisrael Beitenu stay afloat.

Fans of the two-party system shouldn’t blame President Rivlin for making this call because it is the Israeli public that is choosing to make this a bloc war. The two largest lists running in this election have failed in every poll to reach half of the seats together. A national unity government of the two largest parties would still require other parties to reach 61 MKs. Simply, a majority of Israelis are choosing the other nine.

2 – What would it take for Herzog to become Prime Minister?

If Herzog wins 23 seats in Phase 1, as he did in the average of this week’s polls, what would it take for him to reach the Prime Minister office?

One possible scenario:

In Phase 2, Herzog would need to receive the backing of enough party leaders to prove to Rivlin that he is capable of reaching 61 MKs to approve his government in Phase 3. To start off Herzog figures out a way to convince his future coalition partners why he is keeping the top three senior portfolios (Foreign Minister Livni, Finance Minister Trajtenberg and Defense Yadliin) or alternatively Herzog dumps some or all of the people he had campaigned with. Herzog starts with his natural partner. Meretz’s 5 seats will quickly bring Herzog from 23 to 28. Yair Lapid, who makes it harder to bring in the Haredim and the Arabs, joins a Herzog coalition and convinces Herzog to either dump Trajtenberg as Finance Minister or perhaps accepts a lower level portfolio. Yesh Atid brings Herzog up to 38. Herzog turns to Kahlon, who almost ran on a joint list with Likud, and offers Koolanu either the Finance portfolio that Herzog didn’t give Trajtenberg or Lapid, or perhaps a lower level portfolio.

At 46, Herzog makes a play to get a commitment from the Arabs. The Joint (Arab) List forgives the Zionist Union for voting to disqualify MK Zoabi from running in the election, ignore past commitments not to enter a Zionist coalition, and raises Herzog’s numbers to 58. Herzog, with a commitment from Zionist Union-Meretz-Joint Arab List-Yesh Atid-Koolanu for 58 seats has two options. Herzog either convinces Liberman to take a big demotion and sit with Meretz (and perhaps the Joint Arab List) in a left-wing government or Herzog tries to convince Shas and/or UTJ to sit with Lapid. The Hardim find some way to agree to sit with Lapid and not rollback the Haredi Draft Law, with some sort of increase Haredi institution funding. Or perhaps Lapid allows the Haredi Draft Law to be repealed for the sake of replacing Netanyahu. The Joint Arab List who helped Herzog in Phase 2 disappear in Phase 3, but it doesn’t matter because by this point you have a stable coalition of Zionist Union-Meretz-Yesh Atid-Koolanu-Yisrael Beitenu-Shas-UTJ.

Following this unusual Phase 2 arrangement, this potential Herzog government would now require 61 MKs to approve such a coalition in Phase 3, without any rebel MKs from any of the factions voting against such a union. Of course MKs such as Zoabi & Trajtenberg would vote for such an arrangement.

3 – What would it take for Netanyahu to become Prime Minister?

If Netanyahu wins 24 seats in Phase 1, as he did in the average of this week’s polls, what would it take for him to reach the Prime Minister office?

One possible scenario:

Prime Minister Netanyahu starts off with his natural partners. He offers Naftali Bennett a senior portfolio and jumps from 24 to 36. Netanyahu brings in the three Haredi parties (UTJ-Shas-Yachad) with promises of the Interior Minister, Appropriations Chairman and plenty of funding.  With 53 seats in the bag, Netanyahu offers Kahlon the Finance Minister position and Netanyahu’s coalition is already at 61. Yisrael Beitenu joins between Phase 2 and Phase 3.

There are challenges of course. Deri might refuse to nominate Netanyahu, even if given a major portfolio. Can Deri and Yishai sit together in the same cabinet? Can Netanyahu get away with selling out to the Haredim? Will Netanyahu be able to overpay Kahlon and/or Liberman for a commitment before they meet President Rivlin?


4 – Week 12 Preview

The election is in 30 days. Things have started to stabilize, no party gained or lost a complete seat this week. The ground game is also starting to pick up. Likud and Zionist Union will try to find a way to return the focus to their head-to-head match-up. Yesh Atid, Koolanu and Yisrael Beitenu will try to take advantage of Rivlin’s recent statements. Bayit Yehudi will try to keep rebounding after three consecutive weeks of bad polling with encouraging news following two Friday polls at 13 seats. The Joint Arab List and UTJ will keep focus on their plans to get out their vote.

For more analysis on the ‘Poll of Polls’ you can catch my weekly radio interview on Sundays with Gil Hoffman on Voice of