Poll: 71% think Netanyahu should resign either immediately or right after war

Surveys by two top news outlets find half of Israelis want early elections, most think government not doing enough to bring hostages back from Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference in Jerusalem on March 31, 2024. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash 90)

Opinion polls show nearly three-quarters of the Israel public want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign against the backdrop of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, with half the country also preferring earlier elections for the Knesset.

The Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 both published surveys on Sunday to coincide with the six-month milestone since the war started on October 7 with a devastating attack on Israel by the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Both polls showed the current government being ousted if elections were held immediately.

The polls sampled opinions on who should take responsibility for the Hamas attack and feelings about how well the country’s leaders are prosecuting the war.

Kan reported that 42 percent of respondents said Netanyahu should resign immediately, and 29% that he should step down after the war concludes, making a total of 71% seeking his ouster. Of the rest, 21% said Netanyahu doesn’t need to resign and 8% said they don’t know.

In addition, 44% said there should be elections within a few months, 22% want elections sometime over the coming year, and 26% said there should only be elections when they are next due, in October 2026. Another 8% said they don’t know.

The Channel 12 poll found that 50% believe there should be early elections, 41% were against such a move, and 9% said they don’t know.

Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, April 3, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The war erupted on October 7 when Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, amid wholesale atrocities. The thousands of terrorists who burst through the border from the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people as hostages to Gaza. It took the Israel Defense Forces over a day to fully put down the incursion.

Israel responded with a military campaign to topple the Hamas regime, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages, of whom 130 remain captive, after more than 100 were released as part of a negotiated lull in November and several were freed by Israel. Efforts are underway via international mediators to secure a longer temporary ceasefire that would include the release of more hostages.

In the wake of the Hamas attack, media reports indicated intelligence and military assessment failings that may have left the army unprepared. The IDF has already launched a probe into its response on the day of the attack while the political echelon has insisted that any state inquiry into the background of the war should only be conducted after the conflict concludes.

In the Kan poll, 45% said Netanyahu bears overall responsibility for what happened, while 35% put the blame on IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and the head of the Shin Bet security service, Ronen Bar. Just 3% said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is responsible.

Regarding performance in handling the war, 68% said Netanyahu is not doing well, compared to 29% who said he is, and 3% who said they don’t know.

Fifty-one percent in the Kan poll said that Halevi’s performance is satisfactory, while 41% said he is not functioning well in the war, and 8% said they don’t know.

Among respondents, 22% said Halevi should resign immediately, 54% said he should resign after the war, and 12% opposed him resigning. Another 12% said they don’t know.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from an army base in central Israel, April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Regarding the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, 38% said he should resign immediately, 42% said only after the war, 15% said they don’t know, and 5% responded that he should not go.

Channel 12 similarly asked respondents to grade the country’s leaders on their performance during the war, scoring them from 1 to 10.

Defense Minister Gallant and Halevi both scored 5.6, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz scored 5.3, and Netanyahu 4.2.

Among voters who identified themselves as voting to the right, Netanyahu scored 5.4, Gallant scored 5.9, Halevi 5.6, and Gantz 4.9, the network found.

Among those who voted center-left, Netanyahu scored 2.5 Gallant 5.2, Gantz 5.8, and Halevi 5.6.

Thousands of Israelis take part in a rally in Jerusalem calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza, on April 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Respondents were also asked if the government is “doing enough to bring back the hostages,” to which 56% responded that it is not and 39% said it is. Another 5% said they don’t know.

The Channel 12 poll found that 49% think Netanyahu is acting out of political interests, compared to 35% who said he is acting for practical reasons. The remaining 16% said they don’t know.

Channel 12 also sampled opinions about who is responsible for a diplomatic rift with Washington over the war, Netanyahu or US President Joe Biden.

It found 41% blame Netanyahu and 30% blame Biden. Just over a fifth, 21%, said both leaders are to blame.

The two surveys also looked at how current events are shaping the political field.

Recent developments saw New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar pull his party out of the government in a spat over seats in the three-person war cabinet that is overseeing the war. He also earlier split his alliance with the National Unity Party led by Gantz.

New Hope – The United Right chairman Gideon Sa’ar at a faction meeting in the Knesset, March 18, 2024. (Sam Sokol)

Gantz and Sa’ar brought their united parties out of the opposition to join the emergency government after the war broke out. The war cabinet members are Netanyahu, Gallant, and Gantz, who last week said there should be elections in September to “renew trust in the government.”

The Channel 12 poll showed that 35% of Israelis think Gantz is more suitable for prime minister, compared to 29% for Netanyahu. A further 30% say they would not vote for either candidate, and 5% said they don’t know.

However, if the choice was between Netanyahu or opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid for prime minister, 33% backed Netanyahu and just 23% Lapid, while 39% did not back either and 5% said they didn’t know.

Channel 12 noted that the gap between Gantz and Netanyahu has narrowed to 6 points, down from 12 points in March and 18 in December.

Both channels projected Gantz’s National Unity party as the largest if elections were to be held immediately, with Kan giving the party 30 seats and Channel 12 predicting 32 seats.

The next largest was Netanyahu’s Likud party with 21 seats and then Yesh Atid with 14, in the Kan poll, and 19 and 15, respectively, according to Channel 12.

Currently, Likud holds 32 seats in the Knesset, Yesh Atid 24, and National Unity eight seats.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kan also showed gains for far-right Otzma Yehudit led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, with 10 seats compared to the six it currently holds. Channel 12 gave Otzma Yehudit nine seats.

Both polls showed fellow far-right party Religious Zionism, led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, as crashing out of the Knesset and not passing the threshold of four seats.

Other Kan results showed Yisrael Beytenu on 10 seats, the ultra-Orthodox party Shas on 10 and United Torah Judaism with seven seats, while the two mostly Arab-member parties Hadash-Tal and Ra’am each would win five seats.

Kan also predicted a return of the dovish Meretz party with four seats after it failed to enter the Knesset in the last elections of October 2022, and the same number for New Hope, which would hover just above the threshold.

The once mighty Labor Party, a center-left movement that led the government for decades, was shown as failing to enter the Knesset.

In the Channel 12 results, Yisrael Beytenu was given 11 seats, Shas 11, UTJ nine, and Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am five seats each, like Meretz. New Hope failed to beat the threshold in that poll.

Demonstrators on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv protest against the government and call for early elections and a deal to release hostages held by Hamas, April 6, 2024. (Yair Palti / Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

The Kan poll gave a bloc of parties led by Gantz and Lapid a majority of 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while Netanyahu’s bloc had just 48 seats. The remaining nine seats would be held by Hadash-Ta’al and New Hope.

The Channel 12 poll showed that were elections to be held today, Netanyahu’s bloc would get 47 seats, while his opponents, among them Ra’am, would get 68 seats. The last five would be held by Hadash-Ta’al alliance, which refuses to join Zionist governments.

In the context of ongoing tensions on the northern border with Lebanon since October 8, 46% of respondents believe Israel should initiate a military campaign against the Hezbollah terror group, while 37% would prefer a diplomatic solution, Channel 12 found. Since that date, Iran-backed Hezbollah has been attacking along the border, claiming it is supporting Gaza. As the IDF hits back at Hezbollah sites the spiraling violence has raised concerns of a full-scale war on a second front.

The Kan poll was conducted by Kantar Institute and sampled 601 men and women over 18 via the Internet. It had a margin of error of 4%.

The Channel 12 poll was conducted by Migdam Institute and sampled 512 people over 18, via the internet and telephone with a margin of error of 4.4%.

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