All Israel
Israel elections 2021

MARCH MADNESS: With just 7 days to Israeli elections, latest polls give us no hard clues as to who will be the next prime minister

If Netanyahu cannot form next government, does that open the door for Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett or a “Sa’ar Scenario”? Here’s what you need to know.

JERUSALEM – On Tuesday, March 23, Israelis head back to the ballot box.

It will be the fourth round of elections in just the past two years.

But who will be the next prime minister?

The latest polls are murky, at best.

Welcome to March Madness: Israel Edition.

On Sunday, Channel 13 released its new poll.

Let’s take a close look at the results and consider several possibilities – including what I’ll call the “Sa’ar Scenario.”


First, here are parties most likely to team up with current Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu:

  • Likud (Netanyahu) – 28 (down from their current 36 seats)

  • United Torah Judaism – 7 (ultra-Orthodox party)

  • Shas – 6 (ultra-Orthodox party that has publicly committed to support only Netanyahu for PM)

  • Religious Zionism – 6 (highly controversial ultra-Orthodox party)

If Election Day results are consistent with this poll, these parties could only create a bloc of 47 seats.

But Netanyahu needs at least 61 to form a new government.

Netanyahu certainly wants and needs the support of Naftali Bennett and his Yamina party. But the poll finds that Yamina on track to win only 11 seats.

Bennett used to serve as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and later as defense minister in Netanyahu’s last government.

But Netanyahu fired him. And now Bennett is traveling the country saying it’s “time to fire the CEO of Israel.”

Netanyahu’s challenge: Even if he can persuade Bennett to join his bloc, that still only gives him 58 seats – three short of what he needs.


Now, here are parties that have publicly committed to oppose another Netanyahu government:

  • Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) – 20

  • New Hope (Gideon Sa’ar) – 9

  • Yisrael Beytanu (Avigdor Liberman) – 7 

  • Labor (Merav Michaeli) – 6

  • Blue & White (Benny Gantz) – 4

  • Meretz (Nitzan Horowitz) – 4

If Election Day results are consistent with this poll, these parties could create a bloc of 50 seats.

If Bennett and his Yamina party were to join them with their 11 seats, they could form a bloc of 61 seats – enough to create a government.

The question is: Who would be put forward as this bloc’s prime ministerial candidate?

At first blush, one would be tempted to say Yair Lapid, the TV anchor-turned-centrist politician whose Yesh Atid (“There’s A Future”) party has 20 seats. 

However, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett have both stated that they while they like and respect him, they will not serve in a government led by Lapid because in certain areas he is too far to the center for their tastes. 

For example, Lapid supports a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, while both Sa’ar and Bennett oppose this approach.


For his part, Lapid says he would serve just about any of his rivals, as long as one of them becomes prime minister and not Netanyahu. 

However, the left-wing Meretz party says they will not serve in a government headed by Naftali Bennett because Bennett is too far to the right for them.

That suggests the potential for the “Sa’ar Scenario.” 

Currently, Sa’ar and his New Hope party are on track to win only nine seats. This hardly seems enough to become the head of a new government.

What’s more, Sa’ar has been losing ground. In December, he was polling around 15 or 16 seats. If the latest polls are correct, he has 30% to 40% of his support.

But remarkably, Sa’ar still might have a shot at the big chair.


The anti-Bibi parties could decide after the elections to make Sa’ar their consensus candidate – right-wing enough for Bennett to support, and centrist enough for the others.

Sa’ar would have to give major cabinet positions to his rivals, but there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t.

He could, for example, make Bennett the finance minister, and agree to support Bennett’s bold, free-market economic reform and tax-cut plan.

He could make Lapid the nation’s foreign minister and point man for Israel’s relations with the Biden administration and the Arab world.

He could put Liberman back as defense minister.


That said, don’t count Bibi out.

Public polls often undercount the Likud vote.

Sources close to the Netanyahu campaign tell me they expect Likud to come in at 32 to 35 seats, significantly above where they are in public polls.

If Likud can peel away voters from Sa’ar and Bennett – and possibly from Liberman, too – that is possible.

However, if Likud cannibalizes the votes of Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the Religious Zionism party, Bibi could have a great election night, but still not be able to form a government.

What’s more, if Likud too obviously fights to take votes away from Bennett and the Yamina party, this could anger Bennett and drive him into the “anti-Bibi” camp for good.

Bottom line: we have no idea who the next prime minister of Israel will be.

The drama continues to build. 

And the countdown is on.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories