Israelis love their president, the head of the army and the Knesset speaker. Something about these positions speaks to the heart of the average citizen. The nature of the job is one reason. If we had a queen, her popularity would be soaring.
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Of course, the person who fills the post also plays a role. When Stanley Fischer headed the Bank of Israel from 2005 to 2013, he consistently ranked at the top of the polls. (Then he hightailed it out of here after he stepped down.) He had a presence, not just a job title. So far his successor, Karnit Flug, isn’t anywhere close.
As we do each spring, we’ve had the Dialog Institute, led by Tel Aviv University’s Camil Fuchs, conduct a survey on the popularity of Israel’s leaders. The jobs are the same jobs, only the people change, uh, except for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Not surprisingly, President Reuven Rivlin, who in two weeks marks the one-year anniversary of his election by the Knesset, easily takes the top spot with a 72-percent satisfaction rating.
That’s nearly as popular as his predecessor Shimon Peres toward the end of his tenure. And Rivlin has taken to his job nicely. The admiration and affection for him transcend political camps and parties, though the hard right often blasts him on social media for his conciliatory attitude toward the Arab minority.
Unlike other public figures who always seem to play the tortured saint, Rivlin doesn’t hesitate to show his pleasure. In a recent interview with a Hebrew-language monthly, he admitted flat out: “I’m happy.” His down-to-earth, straight-talking style make him a different president than all his predecessors, and this is only his first year on the job.
Jostling neck and neck for second place are Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (who succeeded Rivlin at that post) and the Israel Defense Forces’ new chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. In the Knesset, Edelstein is Netanyahu’s obedient soldier, the very opposite of what Rivlin was.
But these are nuances that don’t reach the general public, which sees the Knesset speaker as an island of statesmanship in a stormy sea that sometimes makes one long for a healthy dictatorship.
Like any IDF chief of staff, Eisenkot has started out well; his predecessor Benny Gantz broke a record last year by knocking Peres out of the top spot. The new guy is still far from that — he’s less well-known, less photogenic, less telegenic, you name it. But don’t worry, barring any unexpected catastrophes, he’s sure to reach great heights a couple of years from now.
On the political side, Netanyahu does surprisingly well at almost 50 percent. Six months ago, before he sprang the election campaign on us, Bibi was at only 38 percent, with 52 percent unsatisfied.
Now, after two exhausting months of coalition talks in which he was pressured, threatened, extorted and humiliated by his political partners from within and without, he has a 46-percent satisfaction rating (and an identical dissatisfaction rating). This tie also reflects the near tie in the Knesset, with its 61-59 dichotomy. In any case, Netanyahu should be pleased. The people are with him.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, has more supporters than opponents, even though the negatives have gone up over the past year while the positives have remained the same. This stat also reflects the election results: Herzog and his Zionist Union failed to draw voters from the other bloc. Its 24 seats are just one ahead of the number held in the previous Knesset by Labor, Hatnuah and Kadima.
Haaretz’s spring survey, May 26, 2015
In the poll, 506 people were queried nationwide, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent. The survey was conducted by the Dialog Institute under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs.
Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the performance of:
Reuven Rivlin as president
72 percent – satisfied
11 percent – not satisfied
17 percent – don’t know
One year ago (early April): Shimon Peres – 77 percent satisfied
Yuli Edelstein as Knesset speaker
65 percent – satisfied
16 percent – not satisfied
19 percent – don’t know
One year ago: 45 percent satisfied
Gadi Eisenkot as IDF chief of staff
57 percent – satisfied
9 percent – not satisfied
34 percent – don’t know
One year ago: Benny Gantz – 78 percent satisfied
Moshe Ya’alon as defense minister
58 percent – satisfied
26 percent – not satisfied
16 percent – don’t know
Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister
46 percent – satisfied
46 percent – not satisfied
8 percent – don’t know
Isaac Herzog as opposition leader
41 percent – satisfied
37 percent – not satisfied
22 percent – don’t know
One year ago: 41 percent satisfied
Yehuda Weinstein as attorney general
36 percent – satisfied
28 percent – not satisfied
36 percent – don’t know