Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party reached the top spot in a Panels Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister newspaper, Ma’ariv Sof Hashavua, on Thursday for the first time since Labor and Hatnua joined forces on December 10 to create the Zionist Union.
The poll found that the Likud would win 25 seats, the Zionist Union 24, Bayit Yehudi 14, the Joint Arab List 12, Yesh Atid 11, United Torah Judaism and Koolanu eight, Shas seven, Meretz six, and Yisrael Beytenu five. The parties polled that did not cross the 3.25-percent electoral threshold were Green Leaf and both Yahad Ha’am Itanu and Otzma Yehudit.
Last week, the Zionist Union was ahead of the Likud by two seats, and two weeks ago the lead was three.
The percentage of respondents calling themselves “undecided” fell from 30% to 18%.
The reason for the rise in support for the Likud was apparently the attack on Israel’s northern border Wednesday, which occurred while the poll was being taken. The poll found that the percentage of respondents who want Netanyahu to remain prime minister rose from 38% last week to 44%, tying the highest- ever result with a poll on January 1, when rockets were fired from Gaza.
The percentage of respondents saying they do not want Netanyahu to remain prime minister fell to 52% from 55% last week and 58% the week before. The poll was taken before former minister Bennie Begin joined the Likud’s Knesset candidates list.
While all other polls taken since the election season began found that the issues Israelis vote on most are the gap between rich and poor and other socioeconomic matters, the new poll found that the security situation is now the voters’ top priority, 39% to 25%. Only 1 percent of respondents said the issue that would decide the vote most would be Israel’s foreign relations.
Thirty-five percent of respondents said their personal security situation had worsened in recent days, 60% said it had not changed, and 3 percent said it had improved.
Asked who they would like to see as defense minister, 25% said current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, 17% Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, 14% the Zionist Union’s Amos Yadlin, 10% Koolanu Knesset candidate Yoav Galant, and 18% none of the above.
Eighty-five percent said they trust the IDF to handle the security situation in the North, 59% trust Ya’alon, and 52% trust Netanyahu. Asked whether they believe there will be an extensive security operation in the North, 40% said no, 28% said yes, and 32% said they did not know.
The poll of 504 respondents, representing a statistical sample of the adult Israeli population, has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.