Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is overwhelmingly considered by Israelis to be the politician most suitable to lead the country, according to a Haaretz poll published Friday, placing him ahead of eight other possible candidates and giving him more public approval than the others combined.
According to the survey conducted Thursday by the Dialogue Institute and supervised by Professor Camil Fuchs, 38 percent of respondents want the serving prime minister to remain in office for another term, while only 37% said they hope Netanyahu will be unseated in favor of a different candidate.
Labor Party chief and opposition leader Isaac Herzog came in second in the poll, with 7% maintaining he would be their choice for prime minister. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman placed third with 6%, while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett were each favored by 5% of polled Israelis.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who recently announced his surprise departure from politics for an undisclosed period of time, and former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon, who currently holds no public position but in April announced his plans to run for Knesset once again, were also tied with Bennett and Livni at 5%.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid placed last on the list and was viewed by only 4% of the public as a preferred alternative to Netanyahu.
The poll also found that 16% of the public were considering voting for a party headed by Kahlon, regardless of its other members, and an additional 12% said they would contemplate casting a ballot for a Kahlon party if Sa’ar were to join in its ranks as well.
Kahlon, who served as communications minister, and later as welfare and social services minister, quit politics in late 2012 and sparked a wave of rumors about his intention to challenge Netanyahu. His resignation ahead of the January 2013 elections prompted speculation that Kahlon would form his own party, and several polls predicted he could win some 10 Knesset seats. However, the former Likud MK stayed out of the race and has kept a relatively low profile ever since.
Haaretz’s Friday survey was commissioned in light of Sa’ar’s early retirement, in order to determine whether his leaving of the Likud party would affect potential voters.
On Wednesday, in a speech to a crowd of some 1,000 Likud members, Sa’ar announced that he would resign from his cabinet post and “take a break” from politics in order to focus on his family. Sa’ar, who has been described as a favorite in the battle to eventually succeed Netanyahu as Likud chairman, said he will leave the Knesset after the Jewish High Holidays, several weeks from now.