Over half say premier doing badly on health, economy

Poll: Israelis believe politics leading virus decisions, pan PM’s performance

Some 63% doubt Netanyahu’s assertions only professional factors influencing decisions; most fear the country will once again lose control, find itself in 3rd lockdown

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a new coronavirus lockdown, on September 13, 2020. (Yoav Dudkevitch/ Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a new coronavirus lockdown, on September 13, 2020. (Yoav Dudkevitch/ Pool/AFP)

Most Israelis believe political considerations are the leading factor in the government decision-making process as it seeks to bring the country out of its latest national lockdown, according to a poll published Sunday.

The Channel 12 survey found 63 percent of those questioned cited politics as the main concern for leaders, while only 26% believed professional considerations were guiding decisions.

A majority also believed Israel would bungle its emergence from the closure and arrive at a third lockdown (59%), while 21% believed the country would succeed in keeping the pandemic under control this time.

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the notion that political considerations played a part in drawing up the exit plan from the national lockdown, saying the route to reopening was based solely on advice from health experts and officials.

There has been growing public anger at the defiance shown by some in the ultra-Orthodox population toward health regulations amid the pandemic. Sunday saw hundreds of Haredi schools open up against the law after a leading rabbi instructed them too. The move was backed by a leading ultra-Orthodox legislator Sunday evening.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Toldot Aharon synagogue in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim during Sukkot celebrations, on October 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu depends on the ultra-Orthodox parties’ support to maintain his parliamentary power.

A plan during the early summer to restrict towns according to their infection rates was nixed amid strong opposition by those parties. Failure to close off virus hotspots is widely regarded as having contributed to September’s virus surge that necessitated a new national lockdown.

In the poll, 58% thought Netanyahu had performed badly on the health crisis, while 36% believed he did well.

The prime minister was also in the doldrums on the financial front, with 63% seeing his performance as bad, while only 31% viewed it positively.

Israel on Sunday began easing the monthlong closure that has managed to curb runaway infection rates, but shuttered much of the economy and paralyzed many aspects of life for many people. Officials have expressed fear that pressure to swiftly reopen schools and businesses will lead to a repeat of the chaotic emergence from Israel’s first lockdown in May, widely blamed for paving the way for the spike in new COVID-19 cases in August and September.

People stroll along the beach in Tel Aviv during a nationwide lockdown, October 15, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The poll also checked how Israelis would vote if an election were held today. Netanyahu’s Likud would win 27 seats (down from 36 today), while Naftali Bennett’s Yamina remained in second place with 22 (it won 6 in the March elections).

Yesh Atid-Telem would win 17, the Joint List 15, Blue and White 10, Shas 9, Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism 7 each, and Meretz 6.

Current Knesset parties Labor, Derech Eretz, Gesher and Jewish Home would all fail to pass the electoral threshold.

The right-wing religious bloc would thus have 65 seats (not counting Yisrael Beytenu) and the center-left 48.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a Knesset plenary session in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The poll questioned 510 individuals representative of the Israeli population aged 18 and up and had a margin of error of 4.4%

Another poll on Channel 13 Sunday gave Likud 27, Yamina 24, Yesh Atid-Telem 21, Joint List 11, Blue and White 8, Shas 8, Yisrael Beytenu 8, UTJ 7 and Meretz 6 (rightist bloc 66, center-left 46).

That poll questioned 1,102 people and had a margin of error of 3.9%.

Israel is widely assumed to be heading for a new election in the coming months, with the Likud-Blue and White coalition locked in constant infighting and mired in mistrust. The government must pass a highly contentious state budget in December or go to elections.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz warned on Saturday evening that should the dysfunction in the coalition continue and a state budget for 2021 fail to materialize in the coming weeks, he would weigh his options. Gantz did not elaborate on what options lay before him but indicated that new elections, though undesirable, could be on the table.

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