Poll finds most Israelis think Netanyahu must step down now charges announced
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Poll finds most Israelis think Netanyahu must step down now charges announced

Survey indicates that new election wouldn’t break political deadlock, with Liberman still holding balance of power between rival blocs

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of the right-wing bloc at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 20, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of the right-wing bloc at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 20, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/AFP)

Fifty-six percent of Israelis think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign, according to a survey published Friday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would be indicting the premier in three corruption cases.

Just 35% of respondents said that the Likud leader should not budge from the Prime Minister’s Residence, while the remaining 9% were unsure, according to the Channel 13 poll.

If elections were held today, the survey indicated that Benny Gantz’s Blue and White would climb to 36 seats — three more than it received in September’s election. Likud, despite the Netanyahu indictments, would also see its seat count rise, from 32 to 33.

The balance between the right-Orthodox and center-left-Arab blocs that has caused a nearly year-long political stalemate would not change, according to the poll, with kingmaker Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party holding onto the eight seats it won in September and with the majority-Arab Joint List party doing the same with its 13 seats.

The poll indicated that the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism would receive six seats each, a drop from nine and eight seats, respectively.

The left-wing Labor and Democratic Camp parties would also drop, to four seats each, hovering just above the electoral threshold along with the national religious Jewish Home party. Interim Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party, which ran with the Jewish Home as the Yamina alliance in September, would receive six seats, the poll predicted.

Blue and White party chairmen Benny Gantz attends a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on October 28, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In total, the center-left-Arab bloc of Blue and White, Labor, Democratic Camp and the Joint List would edge the right-wing and religious bloc of Likud, Shas, UTJ, Jewish Home and New Right, by 57 to 55.

Respondents were also asked if their trust in the police, State Prosecutor’s Office and the entire law enforcement system was strengthened, diminished or remained the same in light of Mandelblit’s Thursday announcement of charges against Netanyahu.

Twenty percent said their trust was strengthened, 26% said it was diminished and 47% said it stayed the same.

Asked who would be to blame if a third election is called, 35% said Netanyahu, 27% said Liberman, 25% said all players were equally responsible, and just 4% said Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz would be culpable.

The Channel 13 poll surveyed 749 Israelis, 601 of them Jews and 148 of them Arabs. The margin of error was 4%.

Mandelblit on Thursday laid out the charges he intends to file against Netanyahu in three separate cases.

In Case 1000, involving accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors, Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust — the latter being a somewhat murky offense relating to an official violating the trust the public has placed in him. Milchan is not to be charged.

In Case 2000, involving accusations Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth, Mandelblit will seek to charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery. The case is said to have been a contentious one in Mandelblit’s office, with many prosecution officials reportedly arguing that Netanyahu should be charged with bribery, while Mandelblit considered not charging the prime minister at all.

In Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, Netanyahu is accused of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. In that case Mandelblit announced he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust, and both Netanyahu and Elovitch with bribery.

Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, castigated the police and prosecutors hours after Mandelblit announced the charges, saying he would continue to lead Israel, that the cases were fabricated in order to oust him in a coup, and that his investigators must be investigated by an independent panel. He also said Israel no longer enjoyed credible rule of law.

On Friday, he repeated his demand for his investigators to be probed, but moderated his tone somewhat, and said he would respect the courts’ rulings in his case.

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