Netanyahu could be defeated as Prime Minister in Israeli elections next week. Here’s the latest.

Zionist Union leader Isaac ("Bouji") Herzog (left), with Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu in November 2013. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90/Times of Israel)

Zionist Union leader Isaac (“Bouji”) Herzog (left), with Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu in November 2013. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90/Times of Israel)

(Tucson, Arizona) — A week from Tuesday, on March 17th, millions of Israelis will go to the polls for one of the most consequential national elections of our times. We will be casting ballots for the political party of our choice, and in so doing choosing the makeup of the next Knesset (parliament) and our next Prime Minister.

As I’ve been traveling across the U.S. in recent weeks on The Third Target book tour, people have been asking me whether Benjamin Netanyahu will return as Prime Minister, particularly in the wake of his impressive but controversial speech to Congress.

The honest answer is: I have no idea.

There is a groundswell of “Anybody But Bibi” voters. Some 30,000 Israelis turned out the other night for a rally in Tel Aviv calling for Netanyahu to be defeated and removed from office. Most of the Israeli media hates Netanyahu and are doing everything they can to disparage and discredit him. The left-wing parties in Israel can’t stand Bibi and are throwing all they can at him. Some on the center-right have policy disagreements and/or personal frustrations with him in his ninth year as Israel’s premier. And President Obama’s top operatives are in Israel working to unseat the PM.

That said, polls show Israelis trust Netanyahu to be Prime Minister and to keep the country safe from Iran, ISIS and other threats significantly more than Yitzhak (“Bouji”) Herzog, head of the Labor Party, and Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua Party. (The two have formed the “Zionist Union” faction as the main opposition party to Bibi; if they come out on top, they have pledged that Herzog would serve as PM for two years, and then Livni for two years.)

What’s more, most Israelis feel that Netanyahu was right to go to the U.S. to speak about the Iran nuclear threat, and most do not trust President Obama to cut a good deal with Iran that would keep Israel safe.

“Asked whom they trust more to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, 41% chose Netanyahu, while only 15% chose Obama, and a mere 6% chose Herzog,” noted Israel’s largest daily newspaper based on a new poll. “Some 46% of those polled said Netanyahu’s trip to Washington to address Congress was the right move, while 39% thought it was a mistake.”

At the moment, most polls show a dead heat between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the Zionist Union, though one outlier poll yesterday showed Netanyahu’s team ahead by five seats.

It appears to be a jump ball between Netanyahu and Herzog. It could go either way. Thus, it is possible that Netanyahu could lose his position as PM this month, even as the showdown with Iran builds to a crescendo. I’m not predicting one way or the other, just trying to keep you up to speed.

Here’s the latest average of 12 Israeli polls conducted by 8 leading polling companies, according to a widely respected Israeli political analyst.

  • Zionist Union (Herzog/Livni) — 23.50
  • Likud (Netanyahu) —  22.83
  • Joint (Arab) List — 12.58
  • Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) — 12.30
  • Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home/Naftali Bennett) — 11.91
  • Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon) — 8.25
  • Shas — 6.83
  • Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ — 6.66
  • Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman) — 5.58
  • Meretz — 5.33
  • Yachad — 4.16

I will keep you posted as best I can in the days ahead.

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