According to a Sunday Direct Polls survey, which I find to be the most reliable, as tested in their string of accurate predictions of election results when asked who is the most fitting politician to be the prime minister, 48% picked National Camp Chairman Benny Gantz, and only 42% preferred Benjamin Netanyahu. It was the first time Netanyahu came second to anyone in almost two decades.
Over the past four months, right- and left-wing voters have been bombarded with a furious campaign that attacked the government’s judicial reform relentlessly using all three major TV channels for long hours every day. It didn’t help that the coalition parties pulled their first reform bill which was slated to become a law before the end of the Knesset’s winter session. And it also didn’t help that one of the stars of the new government, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s decisions were being defeated systematically and at every turn by AG Gali Baharav-Miara, while the murder rate in Israel was rising to double what it was the year before. It also didn’t help that the leader of the second-largest coalition partner, Shas, was humiliated by the High Court of Justice and forced to vacate his ministerial posts. And then there were the daily disruptions of Israel’s civilian life, its economy, its military, and its most sacred national days by boorish, violent, but also well-financed and stunningly well-organized mobs varying from a few dozens to tens of thousands, depending on the target.
No two ways about it, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s sixth government is in emergency landing mode, with oxygen masks dropping, and the only thing keeping it afloat is the horrible public opinion polls that suggest if they stop now, they’d be facing a decimating election defeat.
As a result of all of the above, last week, the coalition sank in the polls from 64 Knesset seats on November 1, 2022, to the neighborhood of 55 seats.
Now I have some good news: according to the Direct Polls survey, the hemorrhaging may be stopping, and the right-wing parties have at least returned to their natural popularity numbers, with 58 mandates. To remind you, this was the right’s average yield in three out of the past four elections. It was only a combination of Netanyahu’s tireless effort to squeeze out every available vote and the selfishness of leftist leaders such as Yair Lapid and Merav Michaeli that handed the right six additional seats. It was a miracle of sorts, and miracles are not easy to repeat.
But despite this recovery, things don’t look good for the right-wing bloc. According to Direct Polls, the 64-seat coalition would look like this, if elections were held today:
Likud – 31 (down from 32)
Shas – 11 (11)
United Torah Judaism – 7 (7)
Religious Zionism – 5 (7)
Otzma Yehudit – 4 (7)
The left-wing bloc, if they decided to include the Arab parties and if both Arab parties agreed, would have a 62-seat majority:
National Camp – 28 (12)
Yesh Atid – 14 (24)
Israel Beiteinu – 6 (6)
Ra’am – 5 (5)
Hadash-Ta’al – 5 (5)
Neretz – 4 (0)
You’ll notice the Labor Party is gone from Israel’s national politics, presumably because of its catastrophic betrayal of Meretz, which, like a communist Phoenix, is soaring above its scorched ashes.
The most telling response, which should serve as both a red flag and a rotating red light to Netanyahu and his coalition partner, has to do with the bone of contention that supposedly was the reason for the entire hullaballoo (it wasn’t, but go with me on this one), the judicial reform, or, as the leftist mobs call it, the coup d’état.
Out of the entirety of responders, 36% preferred that the government wait until it reaches a negotiated compromise with the opposition; 33% wanted an immediate stop to the legislation; and only 30% advocated that Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Constitution Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman push forward a vote on the first phase of their reform, which is ready and waiting for a second and third vote.
However, when examining the responses of those who say they voted for one of the coalition partners, the picture changes radically: 66% of coalition voters want Levin and Rothman to push the vote ASAP, while only 31% prefer a negotiated compromise. And only a measly 1% want the legislation stopped.
In my humble opinion, it means that the coalition parties, if they wish to hold on to power, better push their prime minister to start working on behalf of his and their voters – exactly what the million people’s rally told him last Thursday. And believe me, it won’t be an easy sale, because there’s plenty of daylight between what Bibi wants and what his followers do.
The survey was conducted by Shlomo Filber and Zuriel Sharon of Direct Polls for Channel 14, on April 30, 2023, using a digital system in combination with a panel, among 947 adults age 18+ who are a representative sample of the general population. The statistical sampling error is +- 3.3%, with a probability of 95%.