Almost two-thirds of Israelis do not want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the next government, a poll published Saturday by Channel 2 found.
The poll was released as the leaders of Israel’s center and center-left parties talk of building various alliances to prevent Netanyahu retaining his post after the next elections. The Knesset on Monday is set to pass the second and third readings of a bill to dissolve itself and hold elections on March 17, 2015.
Channel 2 has reported several times this weekend that the elections could still be averted if Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman supports a move to build an alternative coalition in the current parliament, headed by Netanyahu, including the two ultra-Orthodox parties. It said Saturday night that Liberman might be offered the post of defense minister as an incentive. But Liberman’s office has denied any prospect of such an arrangement.
Asked whether they want the three-term prime minister to take office again after the March elections, 65 percent of the 500 Israelis polled said they do not want Netanyahu to continue running the country while 30% said they do want him to be prime minister; 5% declined responding to the question.
In answer to a separate question in the Channel 2 poll, conducted by Midgam, 36% said that Netanyahu was the best suited candidate for the post of prime minister. The TV report didn’t give figures concerning other candidates.
When asked what party they would vote for if elections were held today, 39% said they would vote the same as in the January 2013 elections, 27% said they would change their vote, 17% were still deliberating, and 6% would not vote. Another 11% said they did not know.
Keeping with Israel’s generally high voter turnout rates, 71% of respondents said they would definitely go vote in the upcoming elections, 24% said they were thinking of hitting the polls on election day — which is scheduled for March 17 — 3% do not think they will vote and 1% said they do not intend to cast a ballot. Another 1% said they did not know.
In the 2013 elections, 67.79% of eligible voters went to the polls, the highest figure since the 1999 election. Some pundits, such as Al Monitor’s Mazal Muallem, predict a lower turnout in 2015, citing “growing despair regarding Israel’s political leadership.”
The results of the survey came out amid feverish talk of an anti-Netanyahu alliance being formed by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni and possibly Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.
In comments Saturday, Yesh Atid’s former science minister Yaakov Peri did not rule out such an alliance even if Lapid, his party leader, was not at its helm. What was important, Peri said, was “to switch the leadership.”
Herzog told Channel 2 in an interview broadcast Saturday night that he has the chance of a lifetime to oust Netanyahu in the upcoming elections and form a center-left government. He said it was “objectively logical” that he should lead a center-left bloc.
On Friday, Channel 10 reported that Livni and Herzog have discussed the possibility of running together over the past few days. According to the report, Livni would get the number two spot on the list and two more seats for party members Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz among the top 10.
Livni said Saturday she’d be “happy” to join a bloc that would replace a Netanyahu-led government. She told Channel 2 it was vital to bring down Netanyahu and that the alliance of Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett was “destructive for Israel.” She also said she considered herself “ready to be prime minister,” and that it was important that “someone with my positions” be prime minister.
A Globes poll gave a Labor-Hatnua alliance 24 seats, Channel 10 said.
Lapid is also reported to be trying to woo Livni into an alliance headed by Yesh Atid, Channel 2 reported Saturday night. Lapid declared on Wednesday that he was competing to be prime minister, and said Yesh Atid would win the elections.
Meanwhile Netanyahu was reported Saturday night to be seeking to move up the Likud leadership primaries, set for Jauary 6, to late December, in part to make it logistically harder for his former interior minister, Gideon Sa’ar, to make a rumored return and challenge him.
On Wednesday, the Knesset approved the first reading of a bill to dissolve itself, and party leaders set new elections for March 17. The parliament is expected to ratify the motion this coming week, sending Israel to the polls for the second time in two years.