Poll: Most Israelis don’t believe PM avoided elections due to security threats

New survey sees slight gains for Yisrael Beytenu after it bolted coalition and Jewish Home, which threatened to topple the Netanyahu government and trigger a national poll

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on November 18, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on November 18, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Following the political chaos of the past week, most Israelis do not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning that the country faced a serious security crisis which justified maintaining the current government and pushing off elections, according a poll released Tuesday.

“We’re in the middle of one of the most complex periods for Israeli security,” Netanyahu said Sunday night in a televised speech. “You don’t topple a government at such a time,” he insisted, urging Jewish Home, Kulanu and other coalition member parties to stick by Likud and not let last week’s resignation of former defense minister Avigdor Liberman lead to the toppling of the government.

Netanyahu offered no further details about the security threat.

In a Monday poll for Army Radio by pollsters Mina Tzemach and Meno Geva, Israelis were asked what they believed was Netanyahu’s “main goal” in making the security argument.

Fifty-eight percent said the main motive was “political, to avoid early elections.” Only 31% believed it was out of “a real concern for the country’s security situation.” The last 11% said they “don’t know.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. Netanyahu says he will take over temporarily as defense minister as early elections loom. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Army Radio report did not give the polling method or the margin of error.

The poll also asked Israelis about their voting preferences, showing a slight shift rightward after the week’s political dramas.

Likud held its place at the lead with 30 Knesset seats, up from 24 in a poll last week but equal to its current Knesset showing. In second-place came Yesh Atid at 18, a high in recent polls. In keeping with all polls in recent months, the center-left mainstay Zionist Union crashed from its current 24 to just 12. The Joint (Arab) List stood at 12.

Jewish Home, meanwhile, rose slightly from its current 8 seats to 9 and Yisrael Beytenu, the party of the man whose resignation triggered the week-long political crisis, rose from its current 5 to 8.

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman at the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism recorded 7 seats with Shas scoring 6, a yet-to-be-launched party led by MK Orly Levy-Abekasis got 6, and the left-wing Meretz were at just 4, hovering just above the electoral threshold.

The polls come two days after Hadashot TV aired the results of a Saturday night poll showing that 53% of Israelis felt the political situation warranted early elections, while 32% felt it did not, with 15% responding that they did not know.

The coalition crisis began last Wednesday, when Avigdor Liberman resigned from the government over criticism of the Tuesday ceasefire deal with Hamas after the Gazan terror group had fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns for two days.

Liberman’s withdrawal shrank the coalition to a barely-sustainable margin of 61 seats in a 120-seat parliament, and led to Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett to demand the defense portfolio for himself. Bennett’s demand threatened to topple the coalition and send the country to early elections, but he withdrew it at a press conference on Monday, saying he would instead help Netanyahu guide the country through its current “security crisis.”

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