News Nosh 02.20.15

APN's special Israeli election polls review
Friday February 20, 2015

Number of the day:
--Percentage of Likud voters who said in a poll that the State Comptroller report on the Prime Minister's taxpayer-funded house expenses reduces the chance they will vote for him in the coming elections.

Election 2015 Polls Review:
The damning State Comptroller report about the residence expenses of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been detrimental to his election campaign, some polls show. If at the beginning of the week, before the Tuesday afternoon release of the report, the center-left Herzog-Livni led Zionist Camp had one seat more than Likud, by the end of the week, some polls showed Netanyahu’s electability suffered a blow.
A Channel 2 poll published Monday gave Zionist Camp 25 seats in the Knesset and Likud 24. The Joint (Arab) List was in third place with 12 and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and the Naftali Bennett-led Habayit Hayehudi both had 11.
The morning after the State Comptroller's report was released, a survey published by Israel's Army Radio revealed that 41% of voters said they were less likely to vote for Netanyahu. Out of those who said they were voting for the ruling party, 22% said they were now reconsidering, or were less supportive of the party, in wake of the report's publication. Some 49% of general voters and 54% of Likud voters said the report would not influence their vote.
But that lessened support seemed questionable later Wednesday with the release of a Channel 10 poll, which showed the report had no effect on the public. The Zionist Camp still had one seat more than Likud at 24. Maariv wrote that the publication of State Comptroller Yosef Shapira 's report on the prime minister's residence conduct “shows that the Israeli public remains indifferent to the results Shapira found.” However, Haaretz+ wrote that the Channel 10 poll “does not fully take the watchdog report into Netanyahu spending habits into account.” Zionist Camp sources told Haaretz+ that they thought the reason was that the right-wing tends to rally around the prime minister when he suffers personal attacks over his behavior, because the attacks are perceived as irrelevant to his professional performance.
Nevertheless, by Thursday it appeared that the report was taking its toll on Netanyahu’s party, according to a Maariv poll that was released to some on Thursday, but published in the Friday papers. It gave the Zionist Camp 24 seats to Likud's 22. Habayit Hayehudi 13, the Joint (Arab) List 12, Yesh Atid 12, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party 8, Shas 7, United Torah Judaism 7, Meretz 6, Yisrael Beiteinu 5 and Eli Yishai’s Yachad party 4. Maariv’s top political commentator Ben Caspit wrote that it was “a bad week for Netanyahu. The investigation train has already left the station, the video clip of (designer) Moshik Galamin (visiting the PM’s residence to show the ‘peeling home’ undermined his image and he lost two seats and in the horizon a criminal investigation can be seen.” Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi showed signs of recovery and regained two seats lost last week. Caspit believes that was at the expense of Netanyahu. According to Caspit, “It’s still much easier for Netanyahu to form a government. Herzog needs to be a master of politics to square the circle or round the triangle: (Netanyahu), along with Lapid, Lieberman, Kahlon, Leitzman-Gafni and Deri, make 61 seats. And that still requires convincing the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox to sit with Lapid."

**Maariv also found that 20% of respondents said that the Comptroller’s report reduces the chance they would vote for Likud. In what appeared to support the finds of Zionist Camp sources, the poll found that 30% of Likud voters say that the report increased the chance they will vote for Likud. But Caspit said that what was more important was that 14% of Likud voters said that the report reduces that chance. Still, this number was significantly lower than the 22% found in the Army Radio survey.
Confusing things, Channel 1 released a poll Thursday night that put Likud and Zionist Camp head-to-head with 24 mandates. Habayit Hayehudi had 13, Joint (Arab) List 12, Yesh Atid 11, Kulanu 8, UTJ 7, Shas 7, Yisrael Beiteinu 6, Meretz 4, and Yishai’s Yachad 4.

But things will get more interesting: the police are likely to give immunity to the former PM's residence manager, Meni Naftali in order to enable him to continue providing testimony to the police against the Netanyahu's. The Justice Ministry announced that it had been decided that the state prosecutor would recommend providing immunity to Naftali after a meeting with the attorney-general on Thursday, Haaretz+ reported.
Separately, a poll published today in Haaretz found that 60% of Arab voters want the Joint List in the next government – and only about half conditioned this on the government being led by Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog. The list is composed of the Arab secular and religious parties and the mixed Jewish-Arab Hadash party. It also showed the list winning as many as 14 seats. According to the poll Israeli Arabs care much more about bettering their socioeconomic lot than about solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.