Could Bibi Lose?

As the Israeli elections approach in less than a week, public opinion polls are beginning to show the center-left Zionist Union pulling ahead of Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud. That’s not dispositive of the results, of course, even if the polls are accurate, since both parties will seek to put together a coalition commanding a majority in the Knesset, with Likud generally being viewed as having better prospects for that.

But it’s increasingly possible the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog could wind up with the stronger hand, per this poll-based analysis from Haaretz:

Based on the poll, Herzog could have the support of 56 Knesset members to form a government, compared with 55 at best for Netanyahu. Herzog would have the support of Yesh Atid, Joint List and Meretz, while Netanyahu would have the support, at best, of Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu and Yahad Ha’am Itanu.

Shas chief Arye Dery and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman have not ruled out supporting Herzog instead of Netanyahu. Kulanu’s Kahlon has said he would not make any recommendation to President Reuven Rivlin on who should form a government.

The drift in all the recent polls does indeed support Haaretz‘s conclusion that Netanyahu’s big speech in Washington didn’t help him much back home. So the price that he and Israel paid in damaged relations with Washington and a loss of bipartisan solidarity may well have been for naught.

If Bibil does actually lose, of course, that will be a watershed event for Israel, and perhaps for the Middle East. But it will also cast into stark relief the strange personal fidelity to Netanyahu expressed by so many American conservatives, which isn’t necessarily shared by the Israelis whose prestige he has mortgaged in pursuit of reelection.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.