Polls portray rise for Lapid and decline for Netanyahu

Polls show the public is slipping away from Likud and toward Yesh Atid as corruption allegations against the prime minister are heating up and secularist Lapid gains from unpopular ‘mini-market’ law.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

It was a tough political week for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The latest polls are showing his Likud party slipping badly due to passage of the unpopular ‘mini-market’ law that orders convenience stores to close on the Sabbath, the ongoing corruption targeting the prime minister and lurid reports on the personal conduct of Netanyahu’s son Yair.

The weekend Ma’ariv newspaper held the worst news for Likud, with his chief rival Yair Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid party getting 27 seats in new Knesset elections compared to only 22 for Likud. That would the best result ever for Lapid’s five-year-old party, which currently has only 12 seats. The center-left Zionist Union gets 14 seats and the right-wing Jewish Home 13 in the Ma’ariv poll. The United Arab List gets 11; Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, 9; ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism, 8; left-wing Meretz, 7; and ultra-orthodox Shas barely passes the minimum threshold with 4 seats.

‘Polls taken now are somewhat irrelevant’

Pollster Mitchell Barak from Keevoon Strategies told World Israel News (WIN) that people should not put too much credence into polls that are conducted without a new election date in sight. “Netanyahu and Likud largely set their support based on security issues,” he said. “Polls taken now with no war underway and no current missile threats are somewhat irrelevant. I do think that there has been some Netanyahu and Likud erosion because of capitulation to ultra-orthodox demands and corruption allegations. He is weaker than he had been, but come election day and all that could change. In Israel people mostly vote on the issue of war and peace, and Netanyahu’s base is mostly hawkish.”

Channel 2 poll has Netanyahu ahead

Another poll by Channel 2 television has Likud slightly ahead of Yesh Atid with 25 seats compared to 24. In that poll the Zionist Union is better off with 16 seats, the Joint Arab list 12, and the Jewish Home up from its current 8 to 11. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is up to 7 seats, while Meretz gets only 5, 7 for UTJ and 6 for Shas.

The Hadashot poll also tested the results if Yesh Atid and Kulanu were to run together. In that case the Arab Joint List reaches 29 seats compared to 25 for Likud.

Kulanu has been under pressure to quit the current coalition over corruption allegations leveled at the government, but so far Kahlon is insisting that he has no intention of leaving the government, nor does he plan to run with Lapid. He told Hadashot that he is not a government “dismantlement contractor.” The furthest Kahlon woud go towards forcing early elections was when he said he had “no doubt” Netanyahu will need to resign if indicted in either of two corruption investigations currently waged against him.

Differences on issues of state and religion

Former Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman told WIN, “Some polls show Yesh Atid  beating Likud and then winning by a large margin when we run with Kahlon. We talk to Kahlon and Kulanu but there are differences between us, especially on issues of religion and state. We believe that this government is eroding the very foundations of democracy while Kulanu is serving in the government and helping it to pass laws that we can’t tolerate.”

According to the Ma’ariv poll, Netanyahu remains the most popular choice for prime minister, with 35% percent favoring Netanyahu, 23% supporting Lapid, and a whopping 42% saying ‘neither.’ A majority of those polled say Netanyahu must resign if indicted. Last week, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan indicated that the investigations were wrapping up and the police could recommend whether or not to indict within the coming weeks.