Netanyahu Gets Barely Passing Grade for First 100 Days

Poll: 46% of Israelis think government should continue West Bank building even if it sparks clash with U.S.

Benjamin Netanyahu's second cabinet will complete its 100th day in power next week, ending what is known as its 'period of grace.'

In a private discussions with his associates, the prime minister said that not only was he being denied a grace period, but that he had to deal with a 'media onslaught' that began hours into his term.

This onslaught relented only after his address at Bar-Ilan University last month, when he said he accepted the prospect of a future Palestinian state, he said.

In the same private discussion, the premier recounted what he considers his cabinet's achievements over the past 100 days.

These include maintaining the peace in the western Negev through a tough security policy, by means of public and covert action against Hamas.

Netanyahu also said he considered plugging leaks from security-related discussions as an achievement, as well as promoting economic reforms and structural changes.

A public-opinion survey commissioned by Haaretz to gauge Netanyahu's popularity as he approaches 100 days shows favorable results, despite the criticism since April for his gauche handling of the national budget and the diplomatic crisis with the U.S.

His two key appointments, Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister and Yuval Steinitz as finance minister, also drew fire.

The survey by Dialog, conducted Thursday under the auspices of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, found Netanyahu's approval ratings were 18 percent higher than Tzipi Livni's - a much larger margin than when they were competing for prime minister. Asked who was better suited to be prime minister, 52 percent said Netanyahu, while only 34 said Livni.

The respondents gave Netanyahu's cabinet a barely passing grade of 5.6 points out of 10. Forty percent said the cabinet was not leading Israel in the right direction, while 37 percent said it was.

Netanyahu's approval ratings may have jumped 5 points since the last Dialog survey, on June 15. In the most recent survey, 49 percent of the 500 respondents said they were satisfied with Netanyahu's performance. The survey results have a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman jumped 9 points since a May 14 survey, with a 40-percent satisfaction rate. Defense Minister Ehud Barak improved by only one point.

Forty-six percent of respondents said Israel should continue construction in the West Bank even if this causes a confrontation with the U.S., and 44 percent said the opposite.