Most Israelis think Netanyahu lying about graft probes — poll
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Most Israelis think Netanyahu lying about graft probes — poll

But respondents evenly split on whether PM should resign; Lapid, Yesh Atid would emerge on top if elections held today

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes (composite image: Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes (composite image: Flash90)

Most Israelis do not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s denials of wrongdoing in the ongoing corruption investigations into his affairs, but are split on whether he should resign, according to a Channel 2 poll released Tuesday.

The prime minister is being investigated in two separate cases. The first pertains to recordings of conversations between him and Israeli media mogul Arnon “Noni” Mozes in which the pair allegedly negotiated an illicit quid pro quo.

The second investigation into Netanyahu is probing claims that he and his family received hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of luxury gifts from businessmen including Israeli Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly stressed that nothing will come of the criminal investigations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Police are checking whether the Netanyahus received some NIS 400,000-600,000 ($100,000-150,000) in gifts of cigars and fine wines from Arnon Milchan. The couple have reportedly insisted that the sums involved were far lower, and that the gifts were unremarkable, as the Milchans are their good friends.

In the second case, police are probing whether conversations in which Netanyahu told Mozes he’d work to hobble the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom daily, in exchange for more favorable coverage in Mozes’s Yedioth Ahronoth, constituted a quid pro quo deal.

According to the Channel 2 news poll, 54 percent of respondents said they don’t believe the prime minister’s protestations of innocence, 28% said they do believe him, and 18% said they don’t know.

At the same time, Israelis were divided on whether he should resign, with 44% saying yes, 43% saying no, and 13% responding that they did not know. Just one percent of Likud voters said he should step down, according to the survey.

If elections were held today, with Netanyahu mired in controversy, the Yesh Atid party would receive the most seats — 26 of the 120 available — with Likud close behind with 24, following by the Joint (Arab) List with 13, the Jewish Home with 12, and the Zionist Union with 11, according to the poll. Kulanu, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, and United Torah Judaism would all receive seven seats, and the Meretz party would receive six, the survey said.

The findings were consistent with recent polls, which have increasingly seen the centrist Yesh Atid surging to edge out the ruling Likud.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, during a session at the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, during a session at the Knesset, October 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Lapid was also leading Tuesday’s poll as the top successor for Netanyahu, should the premier resign, but with a slim 17%. Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar came in second place with 10% each. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union and former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon each received 6% of the participants’ support, while Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan received 5% and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz got a mere 3%.

Channel 2 reported that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would join the contest for the Likud leadership if Netanyahu were forced to resign.

The survey, conducted by the Migdam and iPanel companies, polled 600 Israelis in a cross-section of society, with a margin of error of 4.4%.

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