49% say National Unity's Gantz best-suited to be PM

Poll: 80% of Israelis say Netanyahu must take public responsibility for Oct. 7 failures

PM still hasn’t said publicly that he will shoulder blame; 69% of Likud voters think he should; Yesh Atid MK criticizes leader Lapid, says party needs to join emergency government

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)

The vast majority of Israelis believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should publicly accept responsibility for the staggering failures that led to Hamas’s devastating onslaught on October 7, according to an opinion poll by the Maariv newspaper published Friday.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar have already taken such responsibility, as have Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Eighty percent of Israelis said Netanyahu, who has not made any public statements accepting responsibility, should follow suit, including 69% of those who voted for the premier’s Likud party in last year’s election, according to the survey.

Only 8% of the general public think he should not.

Asked who is better suited to be prime minister, 49% picked National Unity party leader Benny Gantz and only 28% picked Netanyahu, with the rest undecided.

Regarding the war in Gaza against the Hamas terror group, 65% of Israelis support a ground offensive in the Strip, while 21% oppose it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes the hand of newly appointed minister Benny Gantz at a special plenum session presenting the new emergency government in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, October 12, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Additionally, 51% backed a large-scale military operation on the northern front following increasing skirmishes with Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, while 30% want a limited operation.

Asked who they would vote for had elections been held today, the poll again gave abysmal grades to the current coalition — 43 seats compared to their current 64 — with Gantz’s party alone soaring to 40 seats from its current 12.

The survey was conducted on October 18 and 19 by the Lazar Institute, along with Panel4All, among 510 respondents constituting a representative sample of adult Israelis. The margin of error was 4.3%.

With Gantz’s National Unity party now a member of Netanyahu’s emergency wartime government, a senior member of Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party criticized his party chief on Friday for refusing to join.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Lapid has declined to join forces with the coalition unless it removes key security-related authorities held by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. The coalition has not considered making such a move.

“I hope we enter. I’m doing everything so that we enter the unity government, I think we need to be there,” Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern told Channel 12 news.

Asked if Lapid has erred, Stern replied: “Ask him, I think we need to enter,” adding that the answers he has received from the opposition chief on the matter haven’t satisfied him.

MKs Elazar Stern (C) and Gadi Eizenkot (L) arrive at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 9, 2023 (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Last week, Lapid said it’s still necessary to “take the extremists out of the government of extremists,” and pointed to Ben Gvir and Smotrich, saying their presence in the security cabinet is “no way to make decisions.”

The national emergency government has formed a smaller war cabinet — including Gantz and representatives of his party — which is entrusted with powers to set wartime policy and give operational and strategic directives to the security forces.

Lapid has called this “a structure that can’t work, it’ll just add to the mess,” because “instead of one cabinet, [there are] two cabinets that will clash.”

Additionally, Lapid has said that the October 7 massacre — which saw at least 1,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities — was a “failure without reparation.”

Lapid said those “who started the failure can’t fix it.”

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