Poll: Newcomer Gantz could beat Netanyahu

Polling shows that if Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz would run together in the April election, they would prevail as the largest Knesset faction.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

A day after breaking his silence by delivering an inaugural campaign address ahead of the April Knesset election, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and his Israel Resilience party scored high grades in public opinion polling.

A Hadashot poll on Channel 12 television kept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party at a stable 30 seats but placed Israel Resilience close behind at 21 in the race for control of the 120-seat Israeli parliament.

Gantz has said that he sees himself not only as the leader of a strong party but also as a candidate for prime minister. The Hadashot poll showed a neck-and-neck race, with 36% supporting Netanyahu and 35% preferring Gantz.

The party polling numbers show that again it will take a number of factions to form a government majority in parliament. A key is whether any additional pre-election alliances will be established.

Gantz and another former military chief, Moshe Ya’alon, have already announced that they are joining their two parties to run together in April, with Gantz at the helm.

Aside from the challenge to Netanyahu, Gantz is seen as putting the heat on MK Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Lapid, like Gantz, has declared his desire to become prime minister and has billed himself as an alternative to Netanyahu.

The Hadashot poll shows that if Lapid agrees to take his party into the Gantz-headed list, that faction would prevail as the largest in the next Knesset, with 35 seats over the Likud’s 30. Channel 12 said that in such a scenario, Gantz could be well-placed to form Israel’s next coalition government.

Lapid has been resisting, however, and his party said in a statement Wednesday that its leader remains the “only answer” to Netanyahu.

Gantz has been promoting a theme of bringing the people together and portraying the current leadership as divisive. Netanyahu has been countering that Gantz is a leftist.

Of those asked in the Hadashot poll, 30% classified Gantz as neither right nor left, 24% said he was left-leaning, 18% said he was right-leaning, and 28% said that they didn’t know. These results help Gantz in his bid to rise above the battle of left-center parties trying to counter who they refer to as an extremist right-wing Netanyahu.

Gantz has been basing his young campaign on the hope that he could shed himself of any specific ideological label beyond just looking out for the State of Israel. Polling data has shown that such an approach is the best way to succeed amid an otherwise widespread view that the incumbent Netanyahu would have the best chance to form the next government, as well.

In Israel Resilience, members acknowledge that the public opinion figures are not yet a cause for celebration, noting that it is common for support to rise after an initial address. They say they are ready for ups and downs during the campaign until the voters have the ultimate say on April 9th.