Poll: Netanyahu’s Likud would remain biggest party despite corruption probes

Although half the country wants prime minister to step aside, survey finds his party gains an extra seat with him in charge

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses American-Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on February 21, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses American-Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on February 21, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

A poll released Wednesday found that despite the latest developments in the Bezeq corruption investigation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would remain the largest party if elections were held today, and even win one more seat with him in charge than without him.

Channel 10 reported, without citing a source, that Netanyahu has threatened his coalition partners that if anyone tries to force him to resign or suspend himself he will call early elections.

The findings of that network’s poll, conducted Wednesday, suggested that the prime minister has the credibility to make that threat. Despite the suspicions against him, his Likud party would likely remain in power following new elections.

According to the poll, if elections were held today, Likud would win 27 seats if Netanyahu were in charge, down from its current 30, and 26 without him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, February 21, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yesh Atid would become the second biggest party with 23 seats, up from the 11 it currently has. Zionist Union would drop from its current 24 to only 15 seats, though if Netanyahu were not leading Likud, it would win one extra seat.

The Joint (Arab) List would drop one seat to 12; Jewish Home would increase from 8 to 10 seats; Kulanu would drop two to 8; Meretz would increase from its current 5 to 7 seats; Yisrael Beyteinu would gain one seat, giving it 7; UTJ would remain with its current 6 seats and Shas would lose two seats to have 5.

For the survey, conducted by pollsters Midgam, 714 people were asked and the survey had a 3.7% margin of error.

According to another poll, commissioned by Hadashot news, 50% of respondents think that Netanyahu should resign or suspend himself, compared with 33% who think that he should remain in office.

In addition, 42% of respondents said that due to the ongoing investigations implicating the prime minister the country should hold early elections, while 36% opposed the idea.

The survey was also conducted by Midgam, but Hadashot did not say how many people were questioned or what was the margin of error.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during a vote in the Knesset on February 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One of Netanyahu’s top coalition partners, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of Kulanu, again backed the premier on Wednesday. Kahlon said that he would not take any steps out of the coalition until the attorney general gave his decision in the case, in what amounted to a welcome political boost to the embattled Netanyahu.

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 Bezeq corruption investigation.

Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber at a Knesset committee meeting on July 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Filber has reportedly agreed to testify that he was instructed by Netanyahu to provide regulatory benefits to telephone company Bezeq in exchange for Bezeq’s chief shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, giving Netanyahu and his family positive coverage on the Walla news site, which Elovitch owns.

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.

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 has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

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