Poll: Yamina would surge to 21 seats, majority think Netanyahu caved to Haredim

Survey gives Likud 31 seats; Netanyahu still seen as best-suited to be PM, but respondents report deep dissatisfaction with his handling of pandemic

From left to right: Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, and Bezalel Smotrich, at a campaign event in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on August 21, 2019. (Ben Dori/Flash90)
From left to right: Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, and Bezalel Smotrich, at a campaign event in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on August 21, 2019. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

Naftali Bennett’s right-wing opposition Yamina party is enjoying an ongoing surge in support, according to an opinion poll published Monday against the backdrop of the public’s growing frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic.

If elections were held today, Channel 13’s survey found, Yamina would be the second largest party with 21 seats — catapulting up from the just six seats it won in last September’s race.

The largest party would remain Netanyahu’s Likud, but it would drop from its current 36 seats to 31. Yamina would be followed by the centrist Yesh Atid (18), the majority-Arab Joint List (13), Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White (11), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (7) parties, and the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beytenu (6) and left-wing Meretz (6).

The center-left Labor, center-right Derech Eretz and national religious Jewish Home parties would all fail to cross the electoral threshold if elections were held today, the poll found.

That would give the right-wing, religious bloc a majority with 66 seats, compared to 48 seats for the anti-Netanyahu bloc, made up of parties across the political spectrum.

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting of right-wing parties, on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A plurality of respondents said Netanyahu is the most suited to be prime minister (32%), followed by Bennett (18%) and Yair Lapid (13%), with Alternate Prime Minister Gantz trailing at 10%.

Asked if they would obey a lockdown if it is imposed, 64% said yes — fully; 13% said they would partially; 9% would not heed restrictions on holidays and events; and 9% said they would not obey the restrictions at all.

Most Israelis (68%) said Netanyahu capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox on the virus restrictions, in flip-flopping on closures of Haredi cities at the last minute. Another 20% disagreed.

The survey found that 65% are not satisfied with Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis, while 30% are.

The respondents were split on whether coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu should resign — 45% said no, and 34% said yes.

Snubbed and cold-shouldered for years by Netanyahu, Bennett has intensified his rhetoric against the government in recent weeks, after criticizing the country’s coronavirus response ever since he ended up in the opposition following the March elections. He is a thorn in Netanyahu’s right flank, and seen by some as a possible challenger to the prime minister in future elections, along with opposition leader Lapid.

Last week, Bennett alleged for the first time that Netanyahu was only focused on his own legal woes and personal needs, a charge frequently made by centrist and left-wing politicians, but not heard before that from prominent right-wing figures.

Asked repeatedly during an interview at a conference organized by the right-wing Besheva newspaper whether he intends to announce he is running for prime minister if elections are called, Bennett said: “Everything in its own time. When there are elections, I will say very clearly who should lead the State of Israel. I don’t need to jump ahead now without a reason.”

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