Poll: PM Netanyahu Losing Credibility Among Israelis

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (C) speaks during the weekly Cabinet meeting at his office in Yerushalayim on Sunday. (Reuters/Gali Tibbon/Pool)

Although no specific evidence against him has yet been presented, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is beginning to lose credibility in the eyes of voters. A poll broadcast on Channel 10 indicates that more than half — 51 percent — of Israelis do not believe Netanyahu when he says that there is “nothing” in the investigations against him. Twenty-seven percent of the representative sample of 500 Israelis said they agreed with that statement, while 22 percent said they didn’t know what to believe.

The poll was taken after the announcement of a deal between prosecutors and Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow. The deal was signed last Friday, and has led to much speculation that he is to give testimony in the coming days on one or both of two investigations by police against Netanyahu: Case 1000, in which Netanyahu was accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, and Case 2000, in which the prime minister allegedly leaned on the publishers of Yisrael Hayom to limit distribution of their free newspaper in order to benefit from better coverage in rival newspaper Yediot Acharonot. Netanyahu has repeatedly said about both cases that “there will be nothing, because there is nothing” for investigators to find.

If something is found and Netanyahu is indicted on corruption charges, it is not clear if the law requires him to resign as prime minister. If such a situation does develop, however, 66 percent of Israelis said that Netanyahu must step down. Twenty-one percent said that he should not resign, while 13 percent said they were not sure.

Despite that, Netanyahu is still the people’s choice to run the country. The poll shows that a Netanyahu-led Likud would get 27 seats in the Knesset if elections were held now — just three fewer than its current number. However, if the head of the party were someone else, such as Gilad Erdan or Gideon Sa’ar, the party would get 31 seats. Zionist Camp/Labor would achieve 22 seats in an election against a Netanyahu-led Likud, and 20 seats if another figure headed the Likud. Yesh Atid also had a similar gap — 18 if it ran against Netanyahu, or 16 if someone else.

Jewish Home would pick up one seat — for a total of 10 — if Netanyahu was not running; if he was, Jewish Home would get only nine. Shas, on the other hand, would gain one seat — receiving six — if Netanyahu was in the race, versus five if he were not. Other parties’ fortunes — Yisrael Beytenu (nine seats), United Torah Judaism, Kulanu (seven each), and Meretz (five) — would not be affected if Netanyahu dropped out of the race.

As to who should lead the political right in a post-Netanyahu era, 23 percent said that Gideon Sa’ar, the former minister banished by Netanyahu for challenging him before the current Knesset, was the most popular choice. In second place was Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who 11 percent of those polled said would be the best choice. Avigdor Liberman was the third possibility, with 9 percent of the right’s support. Other candidates who registered as choices, but just barely, included Gilad Erdan, Ayelet Shaked and Yisrael Katz.