TEL AVIV – In an ironic twist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity is actually on the rise since the police recommended he be indicted Tuesday, with polls showing that his Likud party would gain an additional seat if elections were to be held now. In addition, about half of all Israelis want the prime minister to leave his position, down 10% from December when 60% of those polled said he should step down if police recommend charges.
The poll conducted by Mina Tzemach and Mano Geva and released by Channel 2 Wednesday night found that the ruling Likud party would gain one Knesset seat, going from 25 to 26, and the runner-up Yesh Atid would fall by two, from 24 to 22, since the last time the poll was conducted on January 13. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid emerged as the police’s key witness in Case 1000 against Netanyahu.
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said Netanyahu should quit and 40% said he should not. A separate poll for Channel 10 news showed 50% saying he should resign while 42% said he should continue as prime minister.
Both numbers were significantly lower than a poll in December, also published by Channel 2, in which 63% said Netanyahu should resign if the police recommend charges of fraud and breach of trust, with only 28% saying he should continue in his position.
The Channel 10 poll showed 34% of respondents believing Netanyahu’s claim that the police are part of a conspiracy to see him ousted, while 53% said they do not believe the claim.
The so-called Case 1000 charges Netanyahu and his wife Sara with receiving illegal gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes whereby the premier would weaken the Sheldon Adelson-backed daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. In his defense, Netanyahu said that he specifically voted against the law that would have weakened Israel Hayom, risking his political career in 2014 and calling new elections because of it.