Latest poll: Israeli public says politics dictate government’s corona policy

Majority of the public thinks political considerations, not health experts, are driving coronavirus decisions.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A new public opinion poll shows the majority of Israelis believe that the exit from the current coronavirus lockdown is being managed by political rather than professional decisions, Channel 12 reported Sunday.

In a wide-ranging poll, 63% of respondents expressed their mistrust of the decision-makers and said they believe that the withdrawal from lockdown is mainly based on political considerations, while only 26% believe that professional considerations were driving decision-making. Only 21% of respondents believe the government’s nine-stage exit strategy will succeed, while 59% say that Israel will need a third national lockdown.

With coronavirus infection rates spiraling out of control in September, Israel became the country with the world’s highest per capita infection rate, and the government imposed a national lockdown on September 13. With the rate finally dropping, the government announced a staged reopening that began October 18 with some small businesses and daycare centers allowed to open, but with the education system and shopping malls remaining closed.

Against the background of the gradual exit from the second nationwide closure, only 36% of respondents think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done well handling the the economic crisis while 63% say that his performance is bad overall. Only 31% rated his performance on this issue as good overall .

If the election had taken place Sunday, according to the Channel 12 poll Netanyahu’s Likud party would have won 27 seats – a strengthening of one seat compared to the previous survey. The second-largest party is still the right-wing Yamina party led by Naftali Bennett with 22 seats – one seat less than the previous poll, expanding the gap with Likud from 3 to 5 seats.

The opposition Yesh Atid-Telem faction headed by Yair Lapid would win 17 seats, the predominantly Arab Joint list 15 seats, Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White 10 seats, Shas 9, and both United Torah Judaism and Israel Beiteinu 7 seats, leaving only 6 seats for the left-wing Meretz party.

The right-wing bloc of Likud and Yamina would have 49 seats, and if the ultra-Orthodox joined with them that bloc would get 65 seats. The center-left bloc would have only 33 seats (Blue and White, Yesh Atid-Telem and Meretz).

Yisrael Beiteinu has maintained its 7 seats and does not identify with left or right.

Israel’s Channel 13 also commissioned a poll with its results showing that it would be possible for Bennett to form a government without Netanyahu.

The Channel 13 poll predicted 27 seats for Likud, Yamina 24, Yesh Atid 21, the Joint List 11, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and Blue and White each with 8, UTJ with 7 and Meretz with 6.

Bennett could thus theoretically form a 61-seat coalition in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset with Yamina, Yesh Atid, Blue and White and Yisrael Beitenu.

Under the national unity government agreement, Netanyahu remains prime minister until November of next year when Gantz takes over. However, the two parties disagree on a new national budget that has to be passed by the end of December. Should the budget not pass, the government will be forced to dissolve and elections held in the spring of 2021.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of Blue and White warned Monday that if there is no progress on the budget, there will be no choice but to go to the polls.

“This government is quarreling and conflicted. We entered this government to rescue the public from the [coronavirus] crisis, but this business is not working. If that does not change – enough, it is over,” Ashkenazi told Ynet.