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Just 29% of Israelis think elections will end the political deadlock, poll shows

Israel Democracy Institute survey finds leap in support for idea of Arab parties joining a coalition; 32% of Israelis say Netanyahu trial should be halted if he forms government

Workers at the Central Elections Committee warehouse in Modiin, ahead of the upcoming elections. February 23, 2021. (Flash90)
Workers at the Central Elections Committee warehouse in Modiin, ahead of the upcoming elections. February 23, 2021. (Flash90)

Less than three in ten Israelis think this month’s election will resolve the two-year-long political stalemate, a poll from the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) published Tuesday showed.

Among all Israelis, just 29% think the upcoming vote will offer a decisive answer regarding the identity of the next prime minister, while supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party are far more optimistic, at 52%, the survey found.

Left-voting respondents appeared to be the least confident that the fourth Knesset election in two years will result in a clear victor, at just 15%. Meanwhile, 23% of centrist voters and 36% of right-wing voters said they believe the vote will yield a clear-cut outcome.

Speaking on the matter Tuesday at a conference for the senior command of the IDF Military Intelligence, President Reuven Rivlin said that “the ongoing political crisis not only strengthens voices seeking to exclude entire groups from broader Israeli society, but also threatens to destroy [whatever remaining trust the people still] have in government institutions, in the democratic system, and in our ability to argue, critique, but ultimately to compromise, to agree, to build and to lead the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, together.”

President Reuven Rivlin at a conference for the senior command of the IDF Military Intelligence on March 9, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The IDI survey respondents were also asked about Netanyahu’s corruption cases, with 59% of them saying they oppose halting his trial if he succeeds in forming a government, while 32% believe his trial should be suspended.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed that the charges are an effort by political rivals, the media, law enforcement, and prosecutors to remove him from office.

The poll also showed that while a majority of Jewish Israelis — 53% — still oppose a coalition that relies on support from Arab-majority parties, there has been a marked increase in support for Arab-Jewish political cooperation, particularly among those who identify as centrist or right-wing.

Percentage of Jews that support having Arab parties in the government, including the appointment of ministers, by political camp (Courtesy: IDI)

Support for the idea among left-wing Jewish Israelis has grown since September 2019 from 71% to 79%, among centrists from 31% to 47%, and among right-wingers from just 5% to 21%.

At the same time, a majority of Arab Israelis — 74% — oppose having an Arab party in a coalition.

In recent years, Arab-majority parties have grown in size, reaching a peak of over 12% of votes cast in the 2020 election, when the Joint List won 15 seats, becoming the second-largest opposition party.

Following the second 2019 election, most Joint List members recommended Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister, marking the first time Arab parties — separately or together — had recommended a mainstream Zionist politician since Yitzhak Rabin in 1992.

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz (C) meeting with leaders of the Joint List alliance, Ayman Odeh (L) and Ahmed Tibi, October 31, 2019. (Ofek Avshalom)

The party split into two factions for the current race, with Hadash, Balad, and Ta’al agreeing to run together under the Joint List name, while Ra’am, an Islamist party, will run alone.

The March 23 election was called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline. The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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