Final polls show Israeli election is neck and neck — again


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Five months later, the numbers apparently haven’t changed a whole lot in Israel when it comes to elections.

In the final polls before Tuesday’s vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is again running neck and neck with Blue and White, a party launched this year and led by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff. Both parties finished with 35 Knesset seats in national elections held in April.

Israel’s main commercial news channels, Channel 12 and Channel 13, show Likud and Blue and White polling at 32 seats each. The surveys have Netanyahu’s potential right-wing bloc gaining seats but still falling short of the 61 needed to form a government.

The last polls allowed by law were published Friday. Exit polling results will be unveiled at 10 p.m. Tuesday Israel time.

The Channel 12 poll predicted that Netanyahu would have 59 lawmakers for a potential government; Channel 13 reported 58. A potential left-wing bloc is predicted to have 53 seats.

The potential kingmaker, Yisrael Beiteinu, is polling at eight or nine seats. Led by Avigdor Liberman, the party stymied Netanyahu’s bid to form a governing coalition in April, when it won five seats.

Both polls show the far-right Jewish Power, or Otzma Yehudit, crossing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold needed for the Knesset and winning four seats. The party was part of a coalition with the Jewish Home party in the April election garnering a total of five seats.

Also on the right, the Yamina coalition of religious Zionist and more rightist parties polled at eight or nine seats. The Ashkenazi haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party had at seven or eight seats, its total from April. The haredi Orthodox Shas Party had six or seven seats after receiving eight in April.

On the left, the Democratic Union — a combination of the Democratic Israel Party of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and others along with the Green Movement — received five or six seats. Meretz won four seats in April.

Labor, which saw the liberal star Stav Shaffir leave and join forces with Barak, polled at four or five seats after taking six in April. This time it’s running with the Gesher party.

The Arab Joint List polled at 10 or 12 seats. Its four parties ran in two groups in the April election and received a combined 10 seats.

The Kan national broadcaster’s final poll, which was released Thursday, gave Blue and White 33 seats and Likud 31.

Paper ballots cast throughout the country will be counted on Tuesday night, with a preliminary total on Wednesday morning. Votes cast by soldiers on their bases, patients in hospitals and diplomats working overseas are added later.

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