06:45 GMT25 October 2020
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    Recent Israeli surveys have suggested that the PM would get 28 seats in the Israeli parliament if elections were held today. The drop in his popularity can be put down to Netayahu's purported mishandling of the the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis as well as his government's unwillingness to adhere to the rules they themselves set.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not see this coming. Signing a historic peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates and a normalisation pact with Bahrain in mid-September, he was certain that this success in foreign affairs would translate into a spike in his popularity at home.

    But reality had other plans. Right after Netanyahu signed the agreements, a Channel 13 poll revealed that his party Likud had actually lost ground compared to previous surveys.

    If elections had been held at that moment, Netanyahu's Likud would only have received 30 out of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, a stark drop from the 36 seats he received in the March elections.

    A view of Jerusalem Old City seen from Mount of Olives, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
    © AP Photo / Oded Balilty
    A view of Jerusalem Old City seen from Mount of Olives, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.

    Now, almost a month after concluding the agreements, Netanyahu is still struggling to lift his ratings.

    Decline in Ratings

    On Tuesday, Channel 12, often critical of the PM, showed that his party hit a low ebb in their poll, receiving only 26 seats. Israel's de-facto opposition leader Naftali Bennett increased his influence getting 23 seats.

    Even a poll by Channel 20 that supports Netanyahu predicted doom and gloom for the Israeli PM, concluding he would get 28 seats if Israel went to the polls now.

    Netanyahu doesn't appear to understand the reason for the decline in his popularity. Recently, his eldest son, Yair Netanyahu, who is active on social media, listed a number of his father's achievements, for which he believes he will be remembered.

    "He will be remembered for the agreements he signed with Arab nations, for the fence he built on the border with Egypt that ended up stopping infiltrations from Africa, for creating a web of roads and railways, for lifting Israel's GNP from the level of a third world country to that of France...", he wrote on Twitter, responding to accusations against his father.

    Mounting Anger

    Many in Israel, specifically over a million people who voted for the PM in the recent round of elections, support these views, despite his relatively low popularity ratings, allegations of corruption, and attacks against him in the media.

    Yet, the voices of those demanding he resign continue to be loud. Netanyahu's three corruption cases still bother many in Israeli society. But the main reason for the drop is his alleged failure in tackling the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent economic crisis.

    Israelis slammed the prime minister and his government for decisions that didn't make any sense (such as the shutting down of trains, while keeping busses operational) and for failing to introduce an economic plan that would keep businesses, shuttered because of the precautionary measures, above water.

    Although Netanyahu did introduce a number of steps aimed at keeping Israel's unemployed afloat and provided assistance to businesses that were hurt during the pandemic, for many those measures were merely a temporary bandage, not a permanent solution.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, both wearing protective mask due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / MENAHEM KAHANA
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, both wearing protective mask due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020.

    The country's media also added fuel to the fire. Comparing the assistance the Israeli government was giving to that of other countries, specifically those in Europe, they increased the public's frustration and widened the already existing gap between the masses and politicians.

    In July, after the first lockdown was lifted, Netanyahu saw his previously high ratings plunge. Back then, 62 percent believed he had mishandled the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. Forty-nine percent said they were unhappy with the way he tackled the health hazards caused by the virus.

    And now this frustration seems to be growing, sparked by the current government's inability to adhere to the rules and restrictions they themselves set.

    In recent weeks, Israeli media has documented a number of public figures, who breached regulations. These included not only the wife of the prime minister Sara Netanyahu, who had her hair done despite seeing a hairdresser being forbidden during the lockdown but also a number of politicians, including from the opposition, who hosted guests or saw their extended families in spite of the restrictions.

    However, Netanyahu is still not ready to admit defeat. For him, the recent drop in ratings and the sinking polls are not an indication of a tendency and are not a sign that if elections come, he will lose that battle.

    "Everyone knows how it all ended", read a tweet by Likud posted on Netanyahu's official Twitter account that showed a poll from 2014, which predicted low ratings for the PM. "We have already gotten used to the fact that the left-wing media is blowing Bennett's ratings in order to diminish [the influence - ed.] of Netanyahu and Likud. This time too, it won't happen".
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    COVID-19, coronavirus, Polls, polls, Ratings, ratings, Likud Party, Likud Party, Likud party, Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
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