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Extremist Right Parties Approaching the Knesset Entry Threshold – Poll

New poll shows two extremist far-right parties hovering near election threshold ahead of the September 17th elections.

The latest Channel 12 poll released on Tuesday found much of the political map unchanged from other polls in the last month. Likud and Blue and White are the leading pack at 30 and 29 seats in the 120-member Knesset, respectively.

The Yamina Right-wing Alliance and the Arab Joint List get 11 seats. The Russian-language Yisrael Beytenu still holds votes to establish a 10-seat right-wing coalition. The ultra-Orthodox parties United Thoracic Judaism and Shas occupy eight and seven terms respectively, with left-wing Labor-Gesher and the Democratic camp each receiving a set of 7.

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But those results could change dramatically if the two far-right parties Zehut and Otzma Yehudit clear the 3.25 percent threshold and enter the Knesset by four seats each, reducing the total number of seats of the other parties and swallowing the right-wing bloc.

In the poll, Zehut took 2.9% of the vote and Otzma Yehudit 2.7%.

Moshe Feiglin, Head of the Zehut Party, during a campaign tour of the Mahana Yehuda Market in Jerusalem on April 4, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

In the case of Zehut, that information is consistent with the ballot box of the party that was shown in the April election, when it won 118,031 votes or 2.74% of the vote.

Otzma Yehudit's past support on the ballot is harder to gauge because she has made a joint election with other parties in the two most recent elections and failed to place any of her candidates in the Knesset in any race.

But in her talks earlier this year with the right-wing parties of the Jewish Home and the National Union to form a right-wing alliance on the eve of the April 2019 race, Otzma Yehudit believed the other parties in the talks were worth roughly. two seats in the Knesset, or about 66,000 votes.

If that estimate of the party's ballot box strength was correct, the latest poll suggests that Otzma Yehudit's support has grown among far-right voters.

If his support really increased – the poll sampling error was 4.4% – it may be because of the right that Otzma Yehudit was harassed by allies and opponents. Three of the party's four leaders – Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein – have either been disqualified from running for election or are currently in the process of being disqualified for their long-standing advocacy of racist politics and support for political violence.

Michael Ben Ari, head of far-right Otzma Yehudit and supporters at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, November 15, 2018 (Luke Tress / Times of Israel)

In the April race, the URWP was sharply criticized for including the extremist faction on its board, and a new incarnation of that right-wing union, now called Yamina, refused to re-establish an alliance with Otzm Yehudit for the vote in September.

Otzma Yehudita, now led by lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir, is made up of supporters of the now banned racist party Kach by extremist rabbi Meir Kahane. Marzel led the Snake after Kahane's 1990s, until the movement was declared a terrorist group and disbanded. Gopstein leads Lehava, an anti-Muslim group that has held violent protests outside inter-religious Jewish-Muslim weddings.

Zehut combines far-right nationalist policies, including annexation of the West Bank and reestablishment of Gaza, with libertarian domestic positions such as cannabis legalization, school vouchers, and the abolition of the rabbi state monopoly on marriage, divorce and other issues.

The Channel 12 poll also asked which candidate voters preferred the prime minister, with Benjamin Netanyahu leading his main rival Benny Gantz by 41% to 32%.

With several parties demanding that any unity government include the removal of Netanyahu as the Likud leader, the poll also questioned Likud voters who they prefer as the party's alternate leader. Former Minister Gideon Sachar led the pack with 22%, followed by Public Security Ministers Gilad Erdan and Culture Minister Miri Regev with 12% each, Foreign Minister Israel Katz with 9% and Knesset President Yuli Edelstein with 6%.

The survey was conducted among 508 adult respondents who, on August 12, constituted a representative sample of Israeli society through the iPanel Institute.

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