Notwithstanding a string of graft allegations, Netanyahu and his Likud party still lead in polls and would return to office in snap elections.
By Steve Leibowitz and JNS/Israel Hayom
A poll conducted Monday by the Geocartographic Institute on behalf of Israel Hayom indicated that if general elections were held now, Likud would win 34 Knesset seats, an increase over the 30 it won in the 2015 election.
The poll also showed that Yesh Atid, under Yair Lapid, would secure 20 seats, compared to its current 11. This is down from the previous poll, which gave it 25. Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) would win 14 seats, compared to eight in the current Knesset.
The Zionist Union, which currently has 24 seats, would drop to 12, and the Joint Arab List, with 13 seats, would likewise drop to 12. United Torah Judaism would increase from its current six seats to nine.
The results also showed Yisrael Beytenu, headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, would win six seats; seven would go to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, and six to Meretz. According to the poll, Shas would not pass the electoral threshold necessary to be part of the Knesset.
A poll broadcast by Hadashot (formerly Channel 2 News) found that 50 percent of the respondents said believe Netanyahu should resign or declare incapacitation, compared to 33 percent who would like him to remain in office. In addition, 42 percent said the Knesset should be dissolved and new elections held. Thirty-six percent of the public say they oppose early elections.
‘The public is deeply polarized’
Hebrew University Political Scientist Prof. Avrum Diskin told World Israel News (WIN), “Netanyahu and Likud are still strong because there is a sense in his base that Netanyahu is being persecuted. That’s the feeling in the public, and they are not wrong. That’s why people who support him are staying with him. The public is deeply polarized with a feeling of ‘you are either with or against us.”
“When there is emotional polarization, voters tend to stick to their camp and support its leader,” Diskin said. Netanyahu has been persecuted by media commentators who do not even pretend to be neutral. Netanyahu is being hunted, and his voters feel they are being hunted. The prime minister’s voters will stick with him and are totally against allowing the government to be brought down by what they consider to be a witch hunt.”
Pollster Mitchell Barak from Keevoon Strategies told WIN, “The average Likud voter is traditional and right of center. They view the investigations as an effort by leftist media elite to bring down the elected leader, whom they greatly admire. When it comes to votes and parties, they prefer leadership to justice. The base of Likud supporters will stick with Netanyahu unless he starts making left-leaning concessions like Arik Sharon and Ehud Olmert did. The Likud has a strong brand, and even in the worst times they still automatically keep their base supporters no matter who the leader is.”
Many believe that if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decides to indict Netanyahu on one or more of the allegations against him, particularly if it is a count such as breach of trust, the prime minister might demand early elections as a way of asking the public to demonstrate its faith in him.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Tuesday that “the understanding in political circles is that if Netanyahu is indicted, the current government will not remain in place.”