A poll published Saturday night found a majority of Israelis are against a planned speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress that has been opposed by the White House as well as many within the US Jewish community.
The survey, conducted for Channel 2, sampled 405 Israeli Jews, and had a margin of error of 4.8%. Its results suggested most do not believe the address will succeed in preventing an emerging US-brokered deal between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program.
In response to the question, “Do you think Prime Minister Netanyahu should travel to speak before the US Congress?” a majority of 52% said no, compared to 36% in favor. A further 12% said that they didn’t know whether Netanyahu should go.
An even higher number, 62%, said a Netanyahu speech would not be able to stop the expected deal, which Israel has said will not go far enough in dismantling Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu intends to argue before Congress that international pressure should be increased on Iran, rather than the proposed easing of sanctions under the terms of the deal.
While 43% said they doubted Netanyahu’s speech would prevent the deal and a further 19% said they were sure it won’t prevent it, 23% said it might block the agreement. Just 7% said they were sure it could. A further 8% said they didn’t know.
Netanyahu accepted an invitation last month from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to speak to Congress, but the White House complained that Boehner had not cleared the invitation with President Barack Obama or Democrats in Congress.
A number of Jewish groups have said the visit is unwise and have called on Netanyahu and Boehner to postpone it at least until after Israel’s March 17 elections. Netanyahu says he is determined to go, while some Democratic lawmakers have said they would not attend the speech.
The survey also asked about a live debate between Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog. Fully 71% were in favor of the idea, 19% were against and 10% said they didn’t know.
Netanyahu has said he would only agree to a debate after his scheduled March 3 address to the US Congress, and would only debate Zionist Union leaders Tzipi Livni or Isaac Herzog, Channel 2 reported.
Televised debates are not a staple of the Israeli preelection landscape as they are in the United States. The last major preelection debate was a televised face-off between Netanyahu and then-prime minister Shimon Peres in 1996. It is believed to have helped Netanyahu eke out a narrow victory in that election.