Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw a bump in public support in a poll released Friday, nearly a week after the latest military operation in Gaza, which helped restore some voter confidence in the premier after his ratings plummeted during the first four months of his sixth term in office.
Thirty-nine percent of the public said Netanyahu was suitable for the job of prime minister, compared to 36% of voters who preferred National Unity party leader Benny Gantz, a Channel 12 poll found. The numbers were a slight improvement for Netanyahu from a poll last week, which had the prime minister edging out Gantz 38% to 37%.
A Channel 12 poll earlier this month, before the Gaza conflict, had public support for Netanyahu below that of Gantz, with Gantz receiving 41% support, compared to 31% who thought the Likud leader was fit to be premier.
Netanyahu has seen his popularity dip in recent months in an apparent rebuke of his government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary and other contentious policies.
The Friday poll showed Netanyahu performed better when compared to opposition leader Yair Lapid, who just 27% of the public said was suitable for the job of prime minister, compared to 42% for Netanyahu in the match-up.
Despite the renewed support for Netanyahu, 63% of respondents said he and the Likud “surrendered to the ultra-Orthodox” in crafting the latest annual budget, compared to 30% of the public who did not agree with that statement.
Government critics have blasted the coalition’s approval of NIS 13.7 billion ($4 billion) in discretionary funds, mostly for the ultra-Orthodox community, and a controversial planned municipal tax fund that would take money from richer towns and redistribute it to poorer communities that are generally more supportive of the government.
Respondents were also asked whether they thought Lapid and Gantz would transfer the same amount of funds to the ultra-Orthodox community if they had formed a government with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Thirty-four percent said they would have, while 49% said they would have bucked such demands.
Asked about the government’s municipal tax plan, 49% were opposed, compared to 39% who backed the proposal. The numbers were better among voters of coalition parties, with 58% backing the plan, compared to 27% who opposed it, according to the poll.
The poll was conducted online on Thursday. It queried 502 respondents and had a 4.4% margin of error.
The figures were published less than a week after Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group ended five days of fighting, which saw the Israel Defense Forces eliminate much of the terror group’s senior leadership. Despite the nearly 1,500 rockets fired at Israeli communities during the flare-up, the operation was mostly welcomed in Israel, where it drew few protests and was backed by the political opposition.
Israel’s TV opinion polls have mixed reliability, but often affect public opinion and drive decision-making among parties and politicians. No elections are set for anytime soon, but the polls could become relevant if the current hard-right coalition — which has seen significant cracks emerge in its short existence — were to fall apart, or trigger elections by failing to pass a budget this month.