66% of Israelis say Netanyahu should quit if indicted – poll
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66% of Israelis say Netanyahu should quit if indicted – poll

Channel 10 survey indicates Likud party would win election, with or without PM; 51% skeptical of his claims of innocence

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, arrives to a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, trailed by aide Ari Harow, far left, on December 8, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, center, arrives to a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, trailed by aide Ari Harow, far left, on December 8, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two thirds (66 percent) of Israelis believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign if indicted for corruption, and just over half (51%) say they don’t believe his protestations of innocence, according to a poll published on Sunday.

According to a Channel 10 news survey of 751 respondents, the governing Likud would come out ahead of the other political parties in a general election — with or without Netanyahu at the helm.

Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar was best poised to be elected to the premiership if Netanyahu was out of the running, the poll said.

According to the poll, 66% say Netanyahu should step down if indicted, while 21% say he shouldn’t quit, and 13% are undecided. Asked if they believed the prime minister’s assertion that he is innocent of all the allegations against him, 51% said no, 27% said yes, and 22% said they didn’t know.

The survey came two days after Ari Harow, a former key associate of the prime minister, signed a deal to turn state’s witness, and a day after police explicitly said for the first time that the investigations of Netanyahu revolve around suspicions of “bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right and his then-chief of staff Ari Harow arrive at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his then-chief of staff Ari Harow arrive at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has said the law does not require a prime minister to step down unless convicted of a crime carrying moral turpitude. Ministers have to step down if indicted, but not prime ministers, she said — an opinion not universally accepted by legal experts.

The poll saw the Likud party retaining its lead, even gaining without Netanyahu as its leader. With Netanyahu at the helm, the party was projected to receive 27 seats, followed by 22 for the Zionist Union, 18 for Yesh Atid, 11 for the Joint (Arab) List, 9 for Jewish Home, 8 for Yisrael Beytenu, 7 for Kulanu and United Torah Judaism, 6 for Shas, and 5 for Meretz.

Without Netanyahu, however, the poll found that Likud would swell to 31 seats, while the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties would each lose two seats as compared to the previous spread, with 20 and 16 seats, respectively.

With Netanyahu out, the poll also predicted that Sa’ar, who recently rejoined the Likud party, would be most likely to lead Israel’s right with 23%. Behind him, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett received 11%, followed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman with 9%.

The poll was conducted on Sunday among 751 respondents — 600 Jewish Israelis and 151 Arab Israelis. The margin of error was 3.6%.

On Friday, Hebrew media reported that police would recommend filing indictments against Netanyahu in two cases — Case 1000 and Case 2000 — as the investigations appear to be strengthened by “significant material” provided by Harow, his former chief of staff.

A police recommendation does not carry legal weight; it is for state prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

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