After migrant deal snafu, Likud still rising in polls

After migrant deal snafu, Likud still rising in polls

But survey shows majority of Israelis disapprove of Netanyahu’s handling of deal with UNHCR to resettle thousands of African asylum seekers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and Likud lawmakers attend a rally in support of the premier in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and Likud lawmakers attend a rally in support of the premier in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A TV poll Tuesday indicated that the Likud party is gaining public support, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flip-flop on an asylum seeker resettlement deal with the UN’s refugee agency.

The Channel 10 survey predicted that the ruling faction would receive 32 seats in the Knesset (two more than its current total) if elections were held today.

The next largest party would be Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 21 seats (now 11) followed by the Joint (Arab) List with 13 seats (now also 13)

The Zionist Union, which currently leads the opposition with 24 seats, would collapse to 12, according to the Channel 10 poll.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party would rise to 10 seats (8), Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu would drop to 7 (10) and Meretz with its new chairwoman Tamar Zandberg would jump to 7 (5).

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would remain at five seats, while Orly Levy-Abekasis, who announced the establishment of her own party after leaving the defense minister’s faction two years ago, would win four seats.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announce a new refugee deal with the UN, hours before suspending it, April 2, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The two ultra orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas would drop to 5 (6) and 4 (7) seats respectively.

While the poll indicated a strengthening in support for Netanyahu’s Likud party, respondents gave a stark rebuke of the prime minister’s handling of a deal with the UN to resettle 16,250 African asylum seekers in Western countries, which he scrapped just hours after announcing it following a right-wing backlash.

According to the Channel 10 poll, 33 percent of the public thought the prime minister handled the deal very badly, 23% said he did not handle it very well, 23% said he handled it reasonably, 10% said he handled it very well, and 10% did not know.

The poll, which was conducted by Professor Kamil Fuchs with the assistance of the Midgam Research Institute, was made up of 699 respondents and included a 3.7% margin of error.

The survey followed a dramatic about-face late Monday evening, in which Netanyahu announced he was canceling a new agreement with the UN’s refugee agency that would have seen thousands of African migrants resettled in Western nations and thousands more given temporary status in Israel. The prime minister had frozen the deal on Monday evening, mere hours after announcing the plan.

African asylum seekers set up a mock slave auction as part of a protest against their deportation outside the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv,, on April 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Every year I make thousands of decisions benefiting the State of Israel and Israeli citizens. Occasionally a decision is reached that has to be reconsidered,” he said Tuesday at a meeting with anti-migrant activists from south Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants reside.

The agreement was designed to end the possibility of forced deportations of thousands of migrants from Israel to Rwanda. Under the agreement, a minimum of 16,250 migrants would have instead been resettled in Western nations.

In return, Israel would grant temporary residency to an equal number of migrants.

The presence of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in Israel has become a key political issue.

Israel’s earlier deportation policy, which offered each migrant $3,500 and a plane ticket, had been condemned by Israeli activists and the United Nations as chaotic, poorly executed, and unsafe. Asylum seekers previously deported to Uganda and Rwanda have told The Times of Israel they faced serious danger and even imprisonment after arriving in Africa without proper documents.

The Supreme Court froze the deportations in mid-March in response to a petition.

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