Polls indicate no drop in support for Netanyahu after immunity request

Polls indicate no drop in support for Netanyahu after immunity request

TV surveys have Likud slightly growing in strength following PM’s announcement he’ll ask Knesset for protection from graft charges; polls suggest continued deadlock after elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A pair of television polls released Thursday indicated support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party remained sturdy following the premier’s request for parliamentary immunity from graft charges, and that the third national election in less than a year would fail to break Israel’s political gridlock.

Netanyahu’s request Wednesday for the Knesset to grant him immunity in a trio of corruption cases sharpened the battle lines ahead of the March 2 vote, with the prime minister declaring his intention to remain in office for years to come and again dismissing the accusations against him as politically motivated.

His rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, said the immunity request presented voters with the choice of “the kingdom of Netanyahu or the State of Israel.”

According to Channel 12, Blue and White would pick up 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset if elections were held today, two more than its current total and one more than it was forecast to get in a poll aired by the network on Sunday.

A Channel 13 survey aired Thursday said Blue and White would receive 36 seats.

Likud, which now has 32 seats, got 33 and 34 seats, respectively, in the polls.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Ramat Gan on January 1, 2020. (Flash90)

The poll results suggested Netanyahu’s bid for immunity, which could push off the filing of the indictment against him, had little impact on his standing with voters.

The Joint List, an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties, received 13 seats in both of Thursday’s polls, maintaining its current standing.

The next-largest party in the Channel 12 poll was Yisrael Beytenu, which was predicted to get eight seats, matching the result from the last elections. However, the right-wing secularist party was set to drop to six seats in the Channel 13 survey, while still retaining its position as coalition kingmaker between the right-wing and center-left blocs.

Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party that now has nine seats, dropped to eight seats in the Channel 12 poll and seven seats in the Channel 13 poll. The fellow ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism was projected to win seven seats by Channel 13, the amount it currently has, while Channel 12 showed it rising to eight seats.

New Right, a nationalist party to the right of Likud, jumped from its current three seats to eight in the Channel 13 poll, while Channel 12 had it receiving six.

Both polls had the center-left Labor-Gesher party winning five seats, one fewer than it got in the last elections, while the left-wing Democratic Camp alliance got four seats in the Channel 13 survey, also a drop of one.

As the Democratic Camp’s constituent factions have yet to agree on a joint run, Channel 12 had Meretz, the largest party in the alliance, receiving four seats, whereas the new Green Party would fail to clear the minimum electoral threshold.

Both the national-religious National Union and far-right Jewish Home-Otzma Yehudit alliance would fail to enter the Knesset if they go it alone, according to Channel 12, but would get four seats if they ran together.

Overall, Likud and its religious allies received 56 in the Channel 13 poll, versus 58 for the center-left and Arab parties, leaving both short of the 61 seats needed for a majority without Liberman.

The size of the blocs in the Channel 12 poll was 55 seats for the right and 57 for the center-left and Arab parties, though if National Union unites with Jewish Home-Otzma Yehudit, right-wing and religious factions would get 57 seats, compared to 56 for the center-left and Arabs.

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during an event in Ashdod, southern Israel, on December 12, 2019. (Flash90)

The result of the polls indicated the March 2 vote would produce a continued deadlock, after elections in April and September failed to result in a government, a first in Israel’s history.

Israelis will go to the polls with Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving premier, officially facing charges of fraud and breach of trust in the three cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and has portrayed the charges as an “attempted coup” by political rivals, the media, prosecutors and law enforcement to oust him from office.

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