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Most Israelis oppose plea deal in Netanyahu trial, polls find

3 surveys show consensus among right- and left-wingers, but for different reasons; 39% say current government should stay even if ex-premier forced to end political career

Demonstrators protest against a planned plea deal with Benjamin Netanyahu near the home of Attorney General Mandelblit, in Petah Tikva on January 15, 2022. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest against a planned plea deal with Benjamin Netanyahu near the home of Attorney General Mandelblit, in Petah Tikva on January 15, 2022. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Most Israelis oppose a plea deal in former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s graft trial, according to three separate television polls published Sunday.

Talks on a possible plea deal for Netanyahu in his criminal trial have progressed in recent weeks, with a potential solution found to the major sticking point left between his team and state prosecutors, Hebrew-language media reports said over the weekend. Netanyahu has been resisting a deal primarily due to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s demand that his actions be designated as carrying “moral turpitude” — legally barring him from public service for seven years.

In the polls published Sunday, opposition to such a deal appeared to be in consensus among all Israelis, regardless of their political affiliation, though likely for different reasons.

Forty-six percent of respondents to a Channel 13 news poll said they were against a plea deal, 29% supported it, and 25% said they did not know.

The Kan public broadcaster published similar numbers: 49% believe Netanyahu’s trial should continue in court, 28% support a plea deal, and 23% have not formulated an opinion on the matter.

And Channel 12 news’ poll found 51% are against a plea deal, 30% support it, and 19% are undecided.

Among those who identified as right-wing, 51% were opposed and 31% were supportive of a plea deal; those who identified as left-wing, 54% opposed, and 31% were supportive, Channel 12 reported.

Right-wing Israelis are against a plea deal because they believe Netanyahu is innocent, and the court will eventually throw out his cases. On the left, people say a plea deal would send the wrong message and that Netanyahu should go to jail.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud lawmakers, gives a press statement ahead of the start of his trial at the District Court in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Channel 12 asked respondents what they believe should happen if Netanyahu is forced to end his political career. Thirty-nine percent said the current diverse government of left- and right-wing parties should stay, 24% said the Likud led by another lawmaker should head the coalition, and 28% said Israel should head to a new round of elections.

In potential elections, Likud would win 33 seats if led by Netanyahu. But in the case of the former premier ending his political career, the party would garner 29 seats with Nir Barkat at the helm, 20 with Yuli Edelstein, and 19 with Israel Katz, Channel 12 found.

Likud last held primaries in 2019. The party is famously averse to leadership changes and has been led by Netanyahu for nearly two decades.

The Channel 12 survey was conducted by Mano Geva, involved a sample of 502 people, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points; Channel 13’s was conducted by Ariel Ayalon and Yousef Maklada, involved a sample of 601 people, and had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points; Kan’s was conducted online, involved a sample of 553 people, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

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