Sep 28, 2022 - World

Netanyahu's bloc makes gains a month out from Israeli elections

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With a little over a month to go before the Israeli elections, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu's bloc is inching closer to getting the support it needs to win a majority on Nov. 1.

Why it matters: If Netanyahu's bloc manages to get 61 seats in the Knesset, the former prime minister will likely move ahead with decisions and legislation that would suspend his ongoing corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

  • Netanyahu’s plans for “reforms” in the judicial system could significantly diminish the independence of the criminal prosecution and the supreme court and further erode Israel’s democratic institutions. The former prime minister denies the corruption charges.

Driving the news: Netanyahu, a conservative who in recent years became a populist, is campaigning for the first time in years as an opposition leader, not as the prime minister, with little influence on the political agenda and news cycle.

  • On the other hand, his rival, caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist “Yesh Atid," has established himself as a seasoned politician seen by many voters as the leader of the center-left bloc.
  • Lapid, a former journalist and TV host, joined politics a decade ago and managed to establish the most important center party in Israel’s history.

State of play: The latest polls show that the gap between Netanyahu and Lapid on the question of who is more fit to be prime minister is the smallest ever. While Netanyahu continues to poll around 45%, Lapid went up from 15% four months ago to 30%.

  • The polls suggest that Netanyahu’s Likud party could win around 32 seats — two more than in the previous elections. Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party could win around 25 seats — eight more than in the previous elections.
  • But when it comes to the blocs, Netanyahu’s potential right-wing coalition has made gains in recent weeks, with most polls showing it would win 60 seats. Some polls show the bloc could get 61.

Between the lines: The polling favoring Netanyahu's bloc isn't a result of the opposition leader's momentum but of an internal breakdown in the Arab Joint List.

  • Balad, a Palestinian nationalist party, left the Joint List earlier this month, tipping the scales in Netanyahu’s favor.

What to watch: Turnout is currently the only important factor in these elections.

  • Polls show that the turnout among Arab voters could be low, which would give an advantage to Netanyahu. But this could change with the split in the Joint List.
  • Among Jewish voters, there is also fatigue and indifference toward the elections (it will be Israel's fifth election within four years). This is exacerbated by the Jewish High Holidays season.
  • All of this makes the last two weeks of October more important. Only then will the election campaign really get underway and the trends in public opinion start to crystalize.
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