Israelis View Lieberman, Not Netanyahu, as Best Suited to Deal With Defense, Poll Says

Meanwhile, Meretz's Galon slams opposition leader Herzog for trying to compete with Israeli right.

Jonathan Lis
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends a news conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 26, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman topped a public opinion poll asking which Israeli politican was most suitable to address security issues and terror concerns. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ranked third.

The poll, conducted by Midgam and overseen by Meno Geva and Mina Tzemach, supports the assessment that Israelis don't view Isaac Herzog or Yair Lapid as worthy contenders to replace Netanyahu. According to the poll, broadcast on Channel 2 TV on Saturday, Lieberman enjoyed the support of 21 percent of those surveyed. Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett garnered 17 percent support, with Netanyahu slightly behind him at 15 percent. Following him was former Chief-of-Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who may enter the political arena once a criminal investigation against him is closed. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid trail way behind, with 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

The poor showing of these two is particularly surprising in light of the dramatic erosion in Netanyahu’s standing, with 73 percent of respondents saying they were unhappy with his performance as prime minister. Only 4 percent said they were very pleased; 19 percent said that they were quite pleased; 35 percent said they were rather dissatisfied and 38 precent said that they were totally dissatisfied. Four percent had no opinion.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon sharply criticized Herzog against the backdrop of the spate of terror attacks. “Herzog’s conduct during the crisis of the last two weeks, with the deteriorating security situation, is a caricature of an opposition," she said. “Anyone wishing to set up an alternative government should present some options that sound different than the ones currently pursued.” Lapid announced that he was withdrawing his motion of non-confidence that was scheduled for Monday, due to the situation.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, October 10, 2015.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, October 10, 2015. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

According to Galon “Herzog’s suggestion to close off the territories, thus imposing collective punishment on an entire population while treating all Palestinians as potential terrorists is a proposal intended to vie with the inflammatory positions of the right.” Galon added that, in contrast to Herzog, Meretz presented the public with alternative policies to those pursued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Saturday, Meretz MKs demonstrated outside the prime minister’s home along with hundreds of activists. “We stood outside his home and put forward an ideological alternative, demonstrating against the policy of managing the crisis, the violent incitement and the light finger on the trigger when confronting Arab Israeli citizens.”

Herzog and Lapid view themselves as the major contenders to replace Netanyahu as prime minister in the next elections. Despite the slide in Netanyahu’s public standing with the wave of stabbings and the erosion of his image as “Mr. Security," neither Herzog nor Lapid is regarded as a threat to the continuity of the current government.

“Undoubtedly, Herzog’s conduct is problematic. It’s frustrating, but even though we should be thriving now, the public doesn’t see the Zionist Union as a governing alternative,” said an MK from Herzog’s own party. He added that “even though the coalition rests on only 61 MKs it’s clear to us that it won’t collapse in the coming months. One problem is that many among us don’t reject out of hand the possibility that Herzog will ultimately join a unity government with Netanyahu, even though it doesn’t seem that he’s really interested in that now.”

The Zionist Union dismissed Galon’s comments. “We won’t accept her preaching when we express our wish to protect the citizens of Israel. We believe in an Israel that will be Jewish and democratic, secure and just, and this will continue to guide our positions. We’re not competing with Meretz over its position to our left.”

Meanwhile in an interview with the Walla website, Yesh Atid leader Lapid urged the public to "shoot to kill" when confronted with any armed attacker.

“Don’t hesitate, even when an incident just starts, shooting to kill is the right thing to do,” said Lapid. “The directives should specify shooting to kill when anyone pulls out a knife or screwdriver or whatever.” He clarified that authorities will give full legal backing to such actions. Relating to the escalation in the security situation he added that he supports carrying of weapons by people with a license.

“There is an orderly procedure for obtaining a permit. The correct model should be what happened near the Kirya in Tel Aviv, when an Air Force officer saw someone rampaging with a screwdriver and took out his weapon, killing the attacker,” said Lapid referring to the incident on Thursday when a Palestinian assailant stabbed five Israelis outside the IDF headquarters complex in Tel Aviv before being shot to death.