ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Surveys show Gantz holds commanding lead over Netanyahu, as war approaches 100th day

National Unity party chair is public’s preferred PM; Netanyahu and allies muster 44-48, far below 64 today; only 9% of public believe Israel winning war

Minister Benny Gantz (center) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) arrive for a press conference at the Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
File: Minister Benny Gantz arrives for a press conference at the Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz would easily form a ruling coalition if elections were held today, and trumps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the public’s preferred prime minister, according to opinion polls released Thursday and Friday.

The Maariv and Channel 12 news surveys demonstrated the ongoing public dissatisfaction with Netanyahu and his hardline, right-wing allies, and particularly their handling of events on and since October 7, when Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 240 people hostage.

According to Maariv, the parties in Netanyahu’s pre-war coalition would win just 44 Knesset seats compared to the 64 they won in the November 2022 elections, and two less than a previous poll by the daily, while parties in the previous ruling coalition would win 71 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

Channel 12 placed parties loyal to Netanyahu at 48 seats, four more than its previous poll, and the former coalition at 67 seats.

Both surveys showed that Gantz’s party, which temporarily joined an emergency wartime government under Netanyahu to participate in critical decisions, would lead the largest party in the Knesset, with 39 seats according to Maariv, and 35 according to Channel 12, soaring from its current 12

The far-right Religious Zionism party of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, which ran on a joint slate with Otzma Yehudit in the last election, was predicted to win 4 seats by both surveys, after failing to pass the electoral threshold according to the previous Channel 12 poll.

The results follow trends seen in other wartime polls published in recent weeks.

According to Maariv, the ruling Likud party would win 16 seats, down from its current 32, while its ultra-Orthodox partners Shas would win nine — down from its current 11 — and United Torah Judaism would keep its 7 seats. The far-right Otzma Yehudit would win 8 seats.

Potential future coalition members Yesh Atid would win 13, down from the current 24, while the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu would win 10, up from the 6 it controls now. Islamist Ra’am would keep its 5 seats and left-wing Meretz would win 4 seats after failing to cross the 3.25 percent vote threshold to enter the Knesset in November 2022.

According to Channel 12, Likud would win 18, Yesh Atid 14, Shas 11, Yisrael Beytenu 9, Otzma Yehudit 8, UTJ 7, Ra’am 5, and Meretz 4.

Labor, which squeaked in with four seats last year, scored below the Knesset threshold in the polls, as did Arab part Balad, which failed to enter the Knesset in 2022.

National Unity had been on the rise even before October 7, with Netanyahu and his coalition losing support amid massive backlash over his government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

In a poll a month before the war began, National Unity led Likud 29 to 26, with the Netanyahu coalition at 52 seats and the former one at 63.

Once the war broke out on October 7, successive polls showed a sharp decline in support for Likud while National Unity’s support rapidly climbed. A survey aired on November 16 showed National Unity with 36 seats, Likud with 17, and the coalition reduced to 45 seats compared to the opposition’s 70.

A Channel 12 poll that aired on December 18 gave Gantz’s party 37 seats compared to Netanyahu’s 18, with coalition parties crashing to 44 seats and opposition parties with 71 seats, maintaining a comfortable lead.

According to Maariv, only 28 percent of respondents believed Netanyahu is suitable to be prime minister, compared to 51% who said Gantz is the right man for the job.

Asked if they believed that Israel is winning or losing the ongoing war, 9% said Israel is largely winning, 53% said the country is on its way to victory, 22% said Israel is mostly losing, 8% said Israel is largely losing, and 8% responded that they didn’t know.

According to Channel 12, 42% of respondents said Gantz is most suitable to be prime minister, compared to 29% for Netanyahu. The poll also said 19% of respondents viewed former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen as suitable for the job.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett won 31% of respondents’ support, compared to 30% for Netanyahu.

Maariv’s survey, conducted by Panel4All, included 515 respondents. The survey had a margin of error of 4.3%. Channel 12’s survey, conducted by Midgam, included 511 respondents. The survey had a margin of error of 4.4%.

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