Poll: Most Israelis Don't Want Netanyahu to Remain Prime Minister

Still, 34 percent see him as best candidate among rivals.

Ofer Vaknin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still seen as the most suitable candidate for prime minister, leaving all his rivals on the left and the right far behind, according to the latest Haaretz-Dialog po

However, the poll also reveals that a solid majority believes that the state under Netanyahu’s leadership is not heading in the right direction and that he should not continue as prime minister after the approaching elections.

The poll was conducted on Tuesday among a representative sample of the Israeli public, supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. According to the poll, if the elections were held today, Likud and the joint Labor-Hatnua party would score 21 Knesset seats each. The previous Dialog survey, held some three weeks ago, before the Herzog-Livni merger, predicted Likud would win 24 Knesset seats.

Yisrael Beteinu, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would win 8 Knesset seats today, compared to 11 at the end of November.

The indication from campaign polls that a clear majority believes the state isn't going in the right direction, heralds a political upheaval, say pollsters and strategic advisers.

But these elections are still far from decided, among other things due to the distribution of votes among medium-sized parties. Also, a rival to equal Netanyahu has yet to appear, hence the majority that sees him as most suitable for prime minister.

Another significant finding in the survey is that the departure of Eli Yishai from Shas will lead to the collapse of the party. The ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party stands to lose two-thirds of its strength, compared to the previous survey. If elections were held today, Shas would win only four seats, the minimum required to enter the Knesset under the new electoral threshold (3.25 percent.) Yishai’s new party would win only three Knesset seats.

By splitting Shas, Yishai has dealt his mother party and its leader, Arye Deri, a fatal blow, even if Yishai himself doesn’t enter the Knesset.

The split in Shas could spell disaster for Netanyahu after the elections. If neither ultra-Orthodox party passes the electoral threshold, about 100,000 rightist votes will go down the drain and Netanyahu could lose 3-4 Knesset seats – diminishing his chances of forming the next government.

Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid, and Moshe Kahlon’s new party Kulanu, would win 12 and 11 Knesset seats respectively, if they run separately, the poll predicts. A ticket merging the two parties – although not likely at this stage – would garner a total of 24 Knesset seats, only one more seat than the total of seats they’d pick up running separately. However, it makes the shared Yesh Atid-Kulanu slate the largest Knesset faction, the poll predicts.

An absolute majority (56 percent) of the electorate blames the rest of the world for Israel’s wretched international status. Only a third of the public, consisting of left and center voters, sees Israel’s government as mainly responsible for this, the poll finds.

Only a tenth of those interviewed believe Lapid is a suitable choice for finance minister in the next government. His predecessor, Yuval Steinintz (Likud,) has twice as many supporters. But both are defeated by Moshe Kahlon (36 percent.)

Most of the public rejects Lieberman’s statement that Israel was responsive rather than proactive during the summer war in Gaza. A slightly larger majority rejects Likud’s statement that voting for Lieberman would bring the left to power. In short, the public believes neither Lieberman nor Likud, but fewer people believe Likud.