International review

Corruption? Shmorruption! Polls show Israelis don’t care

Benjamin Netanyahu (right) stands next to his wife, Sara, along with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri and First Lady Juliana Awada during a meeting on September 12 at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires. . Source: ARGENTINE PRESIDENCY/REUTERS.

This material belongs to: The Jerusalem Post.

If you trust the polls, most Israelis are happy to see Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister – even if the price might be living in a corrupt system.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was handed the public opinion polls that ran in the weekend newspapers when he arrived home from the United Nations General Assembly, he probably had a relatively relaxing holiday.

The polls were taken for Yediot Aharonot – which has a reputation of being against the prime minister – and Ma’ariv columnist Ben Caspit, who constantly writes against Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

Both Yediot and Caspit regularly portray Netanyahu as corrupt.

The polls confirm that the public sees him that way, too.

But the public appears to be quite forgiving of that corruption.

The Panels Research poll was taken for Ma’ariv among 521 people, representing a statistical sample of the Israeli adult population. It found that 54% of respondents believe Netanyahu’s behavior is tainted by corruption, while 34% disagree and 12% do not know.

The Yediot poll was taken by pollsters Mina Tzemah and Mano Geva among 533 respondents. It revealed that only 34% believe Netanyahu when he says there is no basis for the criminal allegations against him, while 54% do not believe him.

When asked if he would have to quit if indicted, 63% of the Yediot poll’s respondents said yes and 29% said no. Asked if there would have to be elections, 57% said yes, while 28% said another Likud MK could be tasked with forming a government without elections.

The numbers for Sara Netanyahu were worse. Only 20% believe she is innocent of charges of spending taxpayer funds on excessive meals for her residence, while 70% said they did not believe her denials of guilt in the affair.

Nevertheless, other numbers in the same polls – both of which have a stated 4.3% error margin – indicate that the corruption does not affect how Israelis would vote or how Israelis view Netanyahu in general.

In the Ma’ariv poll, Netanyahu’s Likud would win a landslide victory if elections were held today. The Likud would win 29 seats, Yesh Atid 21, Zionist Union 16, Bayit Yehudi 12, Joint List 12, Kulanu eight, United Torah Judaism eight, Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz five each, and Shas four.

The race is closer according to the Yediot poll, which Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay liked so much, he immediately spent his party’s money on Facebook ads spreading the news about it. The poll gave Likud 25 seats, Gabbay’s party 22, Yesh Atid 19, Bayit Yehudi 12, Joint List 12, Kulanu nine, UTJ seven, Shas six, and Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz five each.

In both of those polls, there is no doubt that Netanyahu would be asked to form the next government. The polls found that there is no serious alternative to Netanyahu.

When asked by the Yediot poll who is most fit to be prime minister, 29% of respondents said Netanyahu, 12% said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, 10% Gabbay, 5% Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, and 5% Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.

According to the Ma’ariv poll, the incumbent prime minister would beat Gabbay by 21 percentage points, Lapid by 16 points, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon by 18, Kahlon by 15, and Bennett and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi by 17 percentage points each.

The bad news for Netanyahu is that his former number two in Likud, former education and interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, would beat him by 2%. But Sa’ar has no intention of challenging Netanyahu, nor could he according to the rules in Likud, which already chose him as the party’s candidate in the next general election.

The public remains relatively happy with the country under Netanyahu. When Ma’ariv asked whether Israel is a good place to live, 68% said yes and 29% said no.

In the Yediot poll, 71% described the security situation as good, 53% said the same of the economic situation and 42% said so of the socioeconomic situation.

When asked about their personal situation, people were even more positive, with 86% calling it good.

Sixty-one percent are optimistic about Israel’s future, nearly twice as many as are not.

So their prime minister may or may not be corrupt, but Israelis believe everything will be alright.