Third Shot & Attempts to Revive the Peace Process Haven't Lifted Israeli PM's Ratings, Here's Why
06:29 GMT 15.09.2021 (Updated: 06:32 GMT 15.09.2021)
© REUTERS / POOLIsraeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a memorial ceremony for soldiers who fell in the 2014 war with Gaza, at the Hall of Remembrance of Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem June 20, 2021
© REUTERS / POOL
A recent poll has revealed that if elections were held today, Naftali Bennett would only receive 6 seats in the 120-seat Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. This is in stark contrast to ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who only continues to gain in polls despite not occupying any position within the government.
It's been three months since Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in Jerusalem, establishing a coalition government that included parties from the left, right, and centre.
Much has happened since then. His government has led a mass vaccination campaign, enabling the public to get a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine. It has also initiated a number of reforms aimed at improving the lives of ordinary Israelis and reducing their expenses.
On the diplomatic front, Bennett has also participated in a number of initiatives. He recently met with Jordan's King Abdullah II, with whom he discussed bilateral relations and the Palestinian issue.
25 August, 06:15 GMT
Bennett visited the US, where he obtained guarantees from the Biden administration that Iran, Israel's main rival, will not obtain a nuclear bomb. And earlier this week, he met with the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and discussed the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In terms of security, Bennett has been trying to reach a long-lasting truce with Hamas, an Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip, holding a series of indirect talks via Egyptian mediators.
But despite these achievements, his party Yamina and Bennett himself have failed to gain ground in polls.
A recent poll conducted by Channel 12 has revealed that if elections were held now, Bennett would only receive 6 out of the 120 seats available in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset.
In comparison, the party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now leading the opposition, would obtain 32 seats, despite it not being part of the government and not being involved in any great achievements.
Reasons Behind the Decline
Israeli experts have been scratching their heads as to what's behind such low ratings.
One reason is that the Israeli public - who mainly leans to the right - still remembers how Bennett obtained his post, forging a coalition with the liberal party Yesh Atid and getting the support of Raam, an Islamic faction with purported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist movement by many international players.
Another reason for the low polling numbers is the disapproval ratings concerning the management of the coronavirus pandemic. Although his government didn't close down the country, like under Netanyahu, the way he's handled the fourth wave of the virus has raised eyebrows in Israel.
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony to show appreciation to the health sector for their contribution to the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jerusalem June 6, 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony to show appreciation to the health sector for their contribution to the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Jerusalem June 6, 2021.
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUN
To begin with, his government was slow in recognising that the fourth wave was fast approaching. Then they dragged their feet about deciding whether a booster shot was necessary, and when they finally introduced it, they struggled to encourage the public to take it.
Attempts to curb the spread of the disease have also been weak. Law enforcement agencies have been struggling to make sure the masses adhere to a 2-metre distance and wear masks. The international airport has remained open despite it having turned into a pandemic hotspot.
Bennett has additionally failed to bring any stability to the country's south, that is still under fire from rockets emanating from Gaza and that is facing nightly disturbances and incendiary balloons sent by militants from various groups in the enclave.
To keep Hamas quiet, his government has approved a number of concessions to the Palestinians in the Strip. They opened a border crossing, enabling some products to get in, they expanded the fishing zone, and issued permits to some Palestinians, who can now enter Israel for work and medical treatment.
Bennett is also considering returning to an earlier Netanyahu policy that allowed Hamas to receive generous suitcases packed with money from Qatar, a policy that the new PM promised to change.
The next several days will be a test for Bennett and his government. Tensions are currently on the rise as Israel is still looking for two Palestinian fugitives who escaped from the Gilboa prison last week.
Over the past several days, rallies in their support have been held across various locations in the West Bank. Palestinians attempted several stabbing attacks against Israelis. Some of them resulted in injuries. And Hamas sent rockets from the Strip, disturbing the lives of the country's southern communities.
Experts in Israel estimate that the capture of the fugitives might bring the escalation to a boiling point. If that happens, Bennett will need to respond. The scope of his response and the way he handles the situation will determine whether he'll remain in office for long.