Poll: Likud gaining strength despite Netanyahu graft allegations

TV survey says ruling party would win 28 seats if fresh elections held, its best showing since police recommended PM be indicted in 2 cases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and Likud lawmakers attend a rally in support of the premier in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and Likud lawmakers attend a rally in support of the premier in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A poll published Saturday showed the ruling Likud party gaining strength despite the graft allegations surrounding its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and well placed to win elections should they be held today.

The survey, which was aired by Hadashot TV news, said Likud would win 28 seats if elections were held today. While down from its current 30, the poll result was the best yet for the right-wing party since police recommended earlier this month Netanyahu be indicted in a pair of corruption investigations. Polls over the last two weeks have shown it on 27 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

In the last few days, there have been a series of reported developments in another criminal case linked to Netanyahu; Saturday’s poll suggested these have not dented Netanyahu or his party’s popularity.

Netanyahu has reportedly indicated to his various coalition partners in recent days that he might call early elections if they seek to oust him amid the corruption probes, apparently assessing that they are less ready for a return to the ballot boxes than his Likud. Elections are not due until late next year.

Trailing Likud in the Saturday poll was Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, which would win 24 seats, up from its current 11.

Yesh Atid’s showing in the poll, as well that of other parties, was similar to other recent surveys, with the Zionist Union falling from 24 seats to 15; the Joint (Arab) List dropping one seat to 12; the Jewish Home increasing from 8 to 9 seats; Kulanu dropping from 10 to 7 seats; and Meretz adding one seat to win 6 from its current 5.

Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism would add one seat to gain 7; Shas would drop to 5 from 7 seats; and Yisrael Beytenu would gain two seats, giving it 7.

The poll, which was conducted for the network by the Midgam Research Institute, was made up of 538 respondents and included a 4.3 percent margin of error.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the Muni World conference in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The survey results came after a week full of dramatic developments in the so-called Case 4000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu advanced regulations benefitting Bezeq in exchange for owner Shaul Elovitch ordering the telecommunication giant’s Walla news site to grant positive coverage to the prime minister and his family.

Shlomo Filber, the suspended director-general of the Communications Ministry and longtime confidant of Netanyahu, signed a deal overnight Tuesday to turn state’s witness in the probe.

Last week, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in two other cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

The prime minister has also been linked indirectly to Case 3000, a large investigation into suspected corruption surrounding a multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder. While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, close associates of his, including two personal aides, have been arrested or questioned.

Netanyahu is to be questioned over Cases 3000 and 4000 in the next few days.

Netanyahu has this week been linked to another affair, dubbed Case 1270, which involves his former family spokesman Nir Hefetz allegedly offering in 2015 to have judge Hila Gerstel appointed attorney general if she agreed to halt an investigation into the prime minister’s wife, Sara. Netanyahu, who has not been named as a suspect in the case, has strongly denied having anything to do with the incident, and said he thought it highly unlikely that Hefetz had advanced any such idea.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

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