Haaretz Poll: Netanyahu Approval Rating Leaps After Policy Speech

Israelis generally see a link between the prime minister's diplomatic efforts and American pressure.

U.S. President Barack Obama has reservations, the Arabs are protesting and the Europeans are doubtful, but for the Israeli public, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on Sunday evening was a big success. Right and left, Kadima and Likud, new immigrants and old-timers all found something they liked in the address at Bar-Ilan University.

For example, in only a month, Netanyahu's approval rating has jumped 16 percentage points from a low of 28 percent the day after the cabinet debate over the budget on May 14. The 44 percent achieved yesterday comes a day after the speech.

Public support for Netanyahu's speech is sky-high, even though Israelis do not have illusions about the prime minister's motives, which they generally attribute to American pressure. But it turns out that Israelis prefer a prime minister who does the right thing even if he does it for the wrong reasons.

And most of the public thinks the right thing is the combination found in Netanyahu's address: right-wing rhetoric mixed with the desire for peace, an undivided Jerusalem, opposition to the return of Palestinian refugees, a demand for defensible borders, and the words that made the big headline - a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Netanyahu hit a bull's-eye in the Israeli public consensus with his speech. This is reflected in the results of a Haaretz-Dialog survey conducted yesterday under the auspices of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. The numbers show that when Netanyahu deals with leadership on defense and policy matters without scare tactics, the public supports him.

But when he is judged on his actions, such as after the budget debacle, the public is not supportive. The conclusion: Netanyahu needs to operate less and lead more. Another conclusion is that maybe he should speak to the public more often, on condition that he says what the public wants to hear.

The Israeli public overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu's speech - 71 percent. According to the poll, the prime minister said the right things and the television event Sunday night will help Israel in the international arena.

However, these positive views do not blind Israelis; they do not believe there will be any real change in the region as a result of the speech. A large majority of Israelis surveyed say the peace process will not see any breakthrough in the wake of the address, and an even larger majority says a demilitarized Palestinian state will not be established in the next few years, as Netanyahu himself now supports.

Netanyahu built a broad consensus in his speech, the survey shows. He will use this support to maneuver his policies with the Americans.

In terms of internal Israeli politics, Netanyahu put himself in the center of the political map. Most Kadima voters, 49 percent, say Tzipi Livni should join the coalition as a result of the speech, while 37 percent of Kadima voters disagreed.

Likud and Labor voters also now broadly support Kadima joining Netanyahu's government, even though his coalition seems more stable than ever.

Another political achievement is how Netanyahu managed to keep onside his own political base, Likud, even as he added supporters from other parties, mostly Labor and Kadima.

The survey shows that 90 percent of Likud voters, an incredible figure, agreed with what Netanyahu said in his speech. Maybe they are aware that a Palestinian state will not emerge as a result, so they are not worried. In addition, 73 percent of Likud voters say Netanyahu said the right things.

The public liked the speech not just because it was based on the Israeli consensus, but also because of its tone: moderate with a desire for peace and casting the blame for a lack of peace on the Arabs.