Former Army Chief of Staff Gantz Closing Gap With Netanyahu in New Israeli Election Poll

Three months before election, three points separate the prime minister and the former defense official seen as his top challenger

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-IDF Chief Benny Gantz in 2011.
Nir Kafri

A three-point difference separates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in a poll released Tuesday asking Israelis who they would like to lead the country, three months ahead of the general election.

In a head-to-head poll by Channel 10 News, 41 percent of respondents selected Netanyahu as their top choice, while 38 percent chose Gantz, who recently founded the Hosen L'Yisrael party. Twenty-one percent said they could not decide between the two.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 11Haaretz

When the question was changed to pit Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, 45 percent of respondents picked Netanyahu, while 29 percent chose Lapid and 26 percent did not know.

The poll used a sample of 694 respondents – 604 of them Jewish and 90 non-Jewish – and was conducted by Midgam Project Web Panel and Statnet.

>> Best political drama: Israeli election 2019, starring Benjamin Netanyahu as O. J. Simpson | Chemi Shalev ■ A panicked Netanyahu is bracing for the inevitable | Analysis

Netanyahu faces multiple corruption investigations and the attorney general is expected to announce whether he intends to indict the prime minister next month. But it's unclear whether such a development would influence voters, with a recent poll by the daily Maariv saying that a decision to indict Netanyahu would not impact the number of Knesset seats his Likud party would gain.

The survey released Tuesday also asked respondents whether they believe Netanyahu's claim that the investigations into his conduct were biased. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they do not believe in Netanyahu, 33 percent said they do, and 19 percent did not know.  Asked whether a televised statement Netanyahu made on Monday was "dramatic," as he had defined it, 57 percent of respondents said no, 16 percent said yes, and 22 percent did not watch it.

Netanyahu said in his televised statement that he had requested to face state's witnesses in the corruption probes against him and was denied twice. 

A confrontation between witnesses serves as a police tool to resolve conflicting testimonies. Law enforcement is not obligated to hold a confrontation between the accused and a central witness testifying against him, and police and prosecution make the final call.

A poll released last week by the Israel Television News Company showed that 35 percent of Israelis prefer Netanyahu as prime minister compared with 28 percent who would take Gantz. According to a poll released last week by the Kann public broadcaster, 40 percent prefer Netanyahu to 30 percent who would prefer Gantz.