Poll: Bennett Seen as Worthy Replacement for Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a plenum session in the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Fifty-seven percent of Israelis believe that there is a “good basis” for the allegations against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a new poll published Friday says. If elections were held today, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would pull ahead of the Likud led by Binyamin Netanyahu, with 26 seats versus Likud’s 23. However, the poll showed, the Likud would get 29 seats if it were led by Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

On the question of whether or not there was anything to the story of a deal between Netanyahu and Yediot Acharonot publisher Arnon Mozes, in which the newspaper would reduce its level of antipathy to the prime minister in exchange for a deal that would rein in Yediot’s chief competitor, Yisrael Hayom, 28 percent of those polled said that they did not believe the allegations, while 57 percent said they could be true. 15 percent did not know or had no opinion.

In response to the question of who would be the best alternative to Netanyahu, 21 percent said that it would be Lapid, 12 percent chose Bennett, 7 percent Gideon Saar, and 6 percent named Moshe Yaalon. The poll does not say how many of the balance had no preference over Netanyahu, and presumably many had none.

On the question of how new elections would play out, the poll continues to show Yesh Atid gaining support at the expense of Zionist Camp; most of Lapid’s 26 seats are siphoned off from the Yitzchak Herzog-led party, which falls from 24 seats to 9. That is a loss of 15 seats, exactly the number that Yesh Atid gains. The same balance holds true on the right: the Likud falls by 7 seats, while Jewish Home grows to 13, a net gain of 5 seats over the current Knesset, with United Torah Judaism gaining 2 seats (from 6 to 8) and Yisrael Beytenu gaining 1 seat (from 6 to 7). Shas remains stable at 7, Meretz gains 2 (from 5 to 7), while Kulanu weakens to 7 from its current 10 seats.

The poll, conducted by Panels Politics on behalf of Maariv, also explores some “what if” scenarios, and it appears that the one thing holding back Bennett from an opportunity at national leadership is the presence of Netanyahu on the political scene. If the Likud were headed by Bennett instead of Netanyahu, the party would get 29 seats – more than under any other scenario envisioned by the poll. Yesh Atid would gain a seat, with 27. Jewish Home, Bennett’s current party, would fall from its current 8 to 6 seats, with the core of the Tekuma and Techiya voters staying with their preferred party. UTJ and Shas would get 8 and 7 seats, respectively, as they would if Netanyahu remained as head of the Likud.

A more plausible scenario entails former IDF Chief of Staff Yaalon taking control of Zionist Camp, and in that scenario the party’s fortunes rise significantly; it would receive 15 seats instead of the 9 if elections were held with its current leadership choices (Herzog, Shelly Yechimovich, or Amir Peretz). In that scenario, Yesh Atid would receive 22 seats, with the Likud pulling ahead to 24. Jewish Home would grow to 11, while Yisrael Beytenu would receive 8 seats.

Under all scenarios, the joint “power” of Zionist Camp/Yesh Atid would be between 36 and 37 seats, while the constellation of Likud, Jewish Home, and Yisrael Beytenu would range between 42 and 45. In all scenarios United Arab List maintains 13 seats, meaning that, taking into account the likely refusal of chareidi parties to join a Lapid-led government, the only way for Lapid to form a government would be to include the Arab list, also a very unlikely scenario.