A majority of Israelis believe incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will defeat his political rival Benny Gantz and again serve as premier following national elections on April 9, according to a poll aired Sunday on Israeli television.
Asked by Channel 12 news who will be the next prime minister, 56 percent of respondents replied Netanyahu, more than double the 22% who said Gantz.
Another 4% of respondents said neither candidate would be prime minister, while 18% said they do not know.
While most respondents said they believe Netanyahu will be the next prime minister, just 38% said they want him to be, narrowly beating out Gantz at 36%, according to the survey.
Though Gantz’s Blue and White party has consistently outscored Netanyahu’s Likud, the poll again reflected the easier path Netanyahu is expected to have in forming a ruling coalition in light of the overall strength of right-wing parties.
According to the survey, Blue and White would be the largest party after elections with 32 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, followed by Likud with 28.
Trailing well behind Likud in third place was the opposition Labor Party with eight seats, followed by Hadash-Ta’al with seven. United Torah Judaism and Shas, both ultra-Orthodox parties, received six seats apiece, while the New Right and the Union of Right-Wing Parties each got five seats.
Also receiving five seats in the survey were the left-wing Meretz party, the right-wing Zehut, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu.
Rounding out the poll with four seats each were the Ra’am-Balad alliance of Arab Israeli parties and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.
While Blue and White was the biggest party in the survey, it would only have 56 seats together with the center-left and Arab parties, meaning it would need to pick off some of Netanyahu’s current right-wing and religious allies in order to form a majority government with 61 seats.
The survey was conducted for Channel 12 by the Midgam polling agency and included 502 respondents. It had a 4.4% margin of error.
The release of the poll comes as the parties enter the final stretch of the election campaign and make their last appeals to voters.
If he again emerges as prime minister, Netanyahu will be in a position to overtake David Ben Gurion later this year as the longest-serving premier in Israeli history. On Sunday, he marked his tenth consecutive year as prime minister, having taken office on March 31, 2009, following an earlier stint as prime minister from 1996-99.
An election victory would also make Netanyahu the first prime minister to be reelected while facing the prospect of a criminal indictment.
Last month, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced he intends to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a series of corruption cases, pending a hearing.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and claimed the investigations are part of undemocratic efforts by left-wing figures, law enforcement, and the media to push him out of office.