ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Netanyahu’s poll numbers bounce back after Gaza campaign, surveys show

Prime minister pulls back in front of Gantz as most suitable for job, and Likud party — but not coalition — sees boost after sinking for weeks amid judicial overhaul protests

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s five-day offensive in the Gaza Strip has reversed weeks of slipping popularity ratings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, a series of lightning polls indicated Sunday.

Surveys released Sunday evening by Channel 12 news, Channel 13 news and the Kan public broadcaster showed Likud faring better than in a string of recent polls, although the party and its current coalition partners would still fall short of the support needed to form a government were an election held today, according to the surveys.

The figures were published less than a day after Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad ended nearly a week of intense fighting, which saw the Israel Defense Forces eliminate much of the terror group’s senior leadership. Despite nearly 1,500 rockets fired out of Gaza, the offensive was mostly welcomed in Israel, where it drew few protests and was backed by the political opposition.

Operation Shield and Arrow was launched on Tuesday, with the assassination of three Islamic Jihad commanders. According to officials, the timing was determined by operational needs, but the ensuing war nonetheless helped shift attention away from the coalition’s unpopular campaign to upend the judiciary, which had been linked to weeks of sinking approval numbers.

Israel’s TV opinion polls have mixed reliability, but often affect public opinion and drive decision-making among parties and politicians. No elections are set for anytime soon, but the polls could become relevant if the current hard-right coalition — which has seen significant cracks emerge in its short existence — were to fall apart, or trigger elections by failing to pass a budget this month.

According to the Channel 12 poll Sunday, 38 percent of the public preferred Netanyahu as prime minister, while 37% percent preferred former defense minister Benny Gantz in a head-to-head matchup.

Police and rescue forces at the scene where a rocket fired from Gaza hit and damaged a house in Rehovot on May 11, 2023. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)

In the previous survey run by the network, 41% of the public backed Gantz, head of the National Unity party, compared to Netanyahu with 31%.

Polled against opposition leader Yair Lapid, a former prime minister with limited military experience, Netanyahu won 42% of the public’s support, while Lapid received 28%.

A poll by the Kan public broadcaster found that the public still viewed Gantz as slightly more suitable for the role (41%) than Netanyahu (40%). When polled against Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, Netanyahu led at 43% to the opposition leader’s 33%.

Yair Lapid (L), Benny Gantz (C) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R) (Flash90)

All three TV channels showed a slight dip in support for the bloc of parties arrayed against Netanyahu, and a boost for the coalition compared to a poll from a week ago, which gave the opposition a slim but steady majority.

According to Channel 12 news, coalition parties would receive a total of 54 seats, while the anti-Netanyahu bloc would garner 61, and Hadash-Ta’al — the Arab-led faction which has said it would not join any government — would get 5. The network’s poll was the only one of the three surveys published Sunday which predicted a majority for the opposition bloc.

In that poll, Likud and National Unity would each receive 27 seats, Yesh Atid 18, Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit 10, Shas 10, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Ra’am 5 and Meretz — which is currently out of the Knesset — would get 5.

Both the Labor and Balad parties would fail to cross the electoral threshold, according to Channel 12.

In the Channel 13 poll, the network predicted neither bloc would receive a majority, with the coalition winning 56 seats, the opposition 59, and Hadash-Ta’al 5.

The poll predicted National Unity to be the largest party with 30 seats, followed by Likud with 25, Yesh Atid 18, Shas 10, Religious Zionism 8, UTJ 8, Ra’am 6, Otzma Yehudit 5, Yisrael Beytenu 5. Labor, Meretz, and Balad all would fail to cross the electoral threshold.

Meanwhile, according to the Kan public broadcaster’s survey, the opposition would receive 60 seats compared to the coalition’s 55, while Hadash-Ta’al would receive 5.

Contrary to the other polls, Kan predicted that Likud would end up the largest party in the Knesset with 28 seats, National Unity 26, Yesh Atid 18, Shas 10, Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit 10, UTJ 7, Yisrael Beytenu 6, Ra’am 5 and Meretz 5.

Labor and Balad would fail to cross the electoral threshold, according to Kan.

The Channel 12 survey was carried out by Midgam and sampled 501 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.1%. The Channel 13 poll was carried out by Prof. Kamil Fuchs, surveyed more than 701 respondents and had a 3.7% margin of error. The Kan poll was carried out by the KANTAR institute and surveyed 605 respondents with a 4% margin of error.

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