Poll: Gantz, Netanyahu neck-and-neck on suitability to be PM
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Poll: Gantz, Netanyahu neck-and-neck on suitability to be PM

Plurality of respondents say incumbent premier to blame if third elections held; survey has no change in size of blocs, signaling further political gridlock

This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)
This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Slightly more Israelis believe Blue and White chief Benny Gantz is better suited to be prime minister than incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a new poll.

The poll, published Tuesday by the Walla news site, came as Israel appeared geared for a third round of elections in less than a year. The Knesset has until midnight Wednesday to task a lawmaker with forming a government before it is forced to dissolve and new elections automatically called.

According to the survey, 38 percent of Israelis think Gantz is best suited to be prime minister, while 37% say Netanyahu is better for the role. Sixteen percent said neither of them, while 9% did not know.

Netanyahu has consistently beat out Gantz in polls for suitability to be prime minister, though a survey before April’s elections gave the Blue and White head a slight lead over the premier.

The boost in support for Gantz came after Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, failed in consecutive attempts to form a government and was charged last month in a series of corruption cases. Gantz was also unable to form a government following the latest round of elections.

Asked who they would blame if third elections are indeed called, 41% of respondents said Netanyahu, versus only 6% who blamed Gantz. Another 5% percent blamed Yair Lapid, the No. 2 in Blue and White, while 1% blamed ultra-Orthodox parties.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on December 2, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

One-third of Israelis said they would blame Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who has called for a unity government between his right-wing secularist government, Netanyahu’s Likud and Blue and White.

Liberman, who helped trigger elections in September by rebuffing Netanyahu’s offer to join a coalition following the April vote unless a bill to boost ultra-Orthodox military enlistment was passed without changes, has rejected calls to join a narrow right-wing government or a minority one led by Blue and White that has outside backing from Arab parties.

The poll, released a day after Lapid announced he would forgo his agreement with Gantz to rotate as premier, had Blue and White jumping to 35 seats in the 120-member Knesset if elections were held today, up from 33.

Likud would get 32, a one-seat increase.

The Joint List, a collection of four majority Arab parties, would match its current total of 13 seats, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party would drop from nine to eight seats.

United Torah Judaism, another ultra-Orthodox party, would go from seven to eight seats and Yisrael Beytenu would match its current tally of eight seats.

The New Right party would receive six seats, one less than the last elections when it ran together with the national-religious Jewish Home and National Union factions.

The center-left Labor-Gesher would drop to five seats, down from six, while the left-wing Democratic Camp would also lose a seat, falling to four.

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and party leaders pose for a group picture during the swearing-in of the 22nd Knesset in Jerusalem, on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Despite the changes in parties’ seat totals, the overall blocs would match their current sizes, potentially setting up continued political deadlock with neither side having a clear path to a majority.

Gantz and Netanyahu have both pledged their support for a unity government of two parties but have traded blame over who is to be held responsible for the impasse.

The survey was conducted by the Midgam polling agency and included 506 respondents. It had a 4.4% margin of error.

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