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Polls: Chief Netanyahu Rival Makes Major Gains But Faces Uphill Battle To Unseat Prime Minister
A large billboard in Tel Aviv promoting Benny Gantz, head of the Israel Resilience party. (Tara Kavaler)

Polls: Chief Netanyahu Rival Makes Major Gains But Faces Uphill Battle To Unseat Prime Minister

Less than two days after formally launching his political career, former military head Benny Gantz has cemented himself as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s chief rival and biggest threat in the upcoming April 9 elections. According to two polls, if the vote was held today Gantz’s newly-formed Israel Resilience party would garner 21-23 seats in parliament compared to 30-31 for Netanyahu’s ruling Likud. While the gap is significant, one of the surveys found that if Gantz were to lead a much-discussed alliance with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, then the bloc would win 35 mandates and therefore likely be given the opportunity to form the next government. Nevertheless, the same poll found that right-wing parties, including Netanyahu’s Likud, would win more overall seats (48) than their centrist and left-leaning challengers (44), suggesting that Gantz would need the support of ultra-Orthodox parties—which Lapid ideologically opposes and that have long sat in Netanyahu-led governments—to form a majority coalition in the 120-member parliament. In the 2009 elections, for example, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima won 28 mandates to Likud’s 27 but she was unable to form a coalition, opening the door for Netanyahu to regain the premiership (after his first term from 1996-1999). Notably, Israel’s quirky political system does not require that the leader of the party that wins the most seats be tasked with forming a government; instead, the president holds consultations with all party heads and then, based on recommendations, chooses the individual believed to have the best chance of cobbling together a coalition of at least 61 members.

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