Poll: Netanyahu edges out Gantz in head-to-head election

A new poll found that 46% would vote for Netanyahu and 43% for Gantz if an election solely for prime minister were held. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

With Israel mulling a direct election for prime minister as a way to avoid a third, disruptive general election unwanted by an exhausted public, a new poll finds that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would beat his rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

Forty-six percent would vote again for Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Forty-three percent would choose Gantz. But with 11 percent undecided, a prime ministerial race, while still a hypothetical, is very much up for grabs.

Curiously, while a majority choose Netanyahu, the poll also finds he is the figure held most responsible for the failure to form a unity government thus far.

Polling company Panels Politics asked respondents on behalf of Channel 12’s “Morning News” whom they thought was most responsible for the inability to form a coalition.

Thirty-nine percent blamed Netanyahu, 29 percent blamed Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman, and only 19 percent put the onus on Gantz. Thirteen percent were undecided.

Direct elections only for prime minister was an idea floated on Tuesday by Likud faction head Miki Zohar. He said that the party was working on finding a way out of the current political impasse that wouldn’t drag the electorate into a third round of elections.

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Netanyahu himself is staying aloof. Israel Hayom on Wednesday reported that he was not involved in advancing the idea. Other top Likud politicians have stated their opposition to it.

“It’s not a solution,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, in response to the survey results.

While the “lead” Netanyahu holds in the blame game appears negative, it is an improvement over a similar survey conducted by Prof. Yitzhak Katz for Radio 103FM just a week ago.

Fifty-two percent in that poll said they would fault the prime minister if a third round of elections were held, and only eight percent put the onus on Gantz. In contrast to Panels Politics poll, 19 percent of the public also blamed the No. 2 man of Blue and White, Yair Lapid.

Liberman’s position has worsened in the intervening seven days – by seven points – which might cause him to reconsider his position of sitting on the fence.

A third survey published on Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that 62 percent of the public would approve of Liberman joining a coalition led by Gantz in place of a third round of elections. Just under half of those polled were Likud voters.