Amid Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's embroilment in at least four corruption investigations, The Jerusalem Post took to Tel Aviv's streets to measure the public's pulse on the issue.
The question posed: Should Netanyahu resign? Israel's opposition members, as well as MK Oren Hazan from Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, have strongly suggested it would be an appropriate course of action. The Israeli right, on the other hand, has urged patience — to wait for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to decide whether the accusations merit indicting Netanyahu.
The answer wasn't a resounding yes, as one might expect from the residents of Israel's most left-leaning city and heart of the anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu. While many Tel Aviv residents we stopped on Rothschild Boulevard expressed disgust with both Netanyahu's policies and alleged corruption in his government, others supported the prime minister wholeheartedly. One went as far as to wish for Netanyahu to occupy the Prime Minister's Residence "forever."
The street survey could support a new poll conducted by Geocartography that favored Likud in the next elections. The poll, which was conducted at Likud's request, showed the party would gain four seats in the Knesset if elections in Israel were held today, rising from 30 mandates to 34. The results represent the right wing Likud's highest number since elections were held in 2015, noted Israel Hayom
, who first reported the poll.
Perhaps most telling, though, is that Geocartography's poll results showed the Zionist Union, largely seen as the Israeli left's only viable path to the Prime Minister's Residence, losing half its seats, from 24 to 12.
Yet opposition to Netanyahu's government is alive and well in Tel Aviv.
Avi Golan, who lives in the coastal cultural hub, thinks Netanyahu should step down for practical reasons.
"He must be busy with the investigation and he must be busy talking with his lawyers," he said. "He [doesn't] have the time dealing with the country, because it's too much."
Ariel Medina, who made aliyah a year ago from Venezuela, said his familiarity with political corruption back home — having lived under the iron-fisted rule of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — doesn't excuse misconduct in his eyes. Medina hasn't been following the investigation into Netanyahu's affairs, but if the prime minister is found to be guilty, he should resign, he said.
"If he's a corrupt guy, then, yeah. He shouldn't be working for the state," Medina said.
Natalie Azantirosh suggested it's time for the four-term prime minister to give someone else a chance to rule. But when asked, Azantirosh didn't have a replacement in mind. It's a dilemma many Israelis face, and could partially explain Likud's strong standing in the polls.
Fifty-nine percent of the public believes the criminal investigations into Netanyahu damage his ability to run the country
and handle security crises, according to a Smith Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post
. The poll was conducted last Wednesday, a day after the police announced its recommendation to indict the prime minister for bribery.
Even so, however, a Channel 2 News poll also released last week had Likud gaining a seat amid the damning police recommendation.
Uri Dagan, a resident of Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Gan, supports the prime minister only because "there is no other option." If there were a leader fit to replace Netanyahu, Dagan said, the investigations would disqualify the prime minister.
"I don't like a criminal to be the head of my government," Dagan said. "But at this time I don't see a better alternative."
Prime Minister Netanyahu, for his part, touted the Geocartography poll in an Instagram post Wednesday, comparing Likud to biblical Israelites in Egyptian bondage.
The verse, from Exodus chapter 1, verse 13, reads: "And the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and spread out."
The ones doing the afflicting in Netanyahu's tweet are his detractors, and those multiplying are his supporters.
Suspended Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, a confidant of Netanyahu's, signed a state’s witness deal as part of police investigation Case 4000
on Tuesday night, in the latest blow to the prime minister. And yesterday it was revealed that Netanyahu's close adviser, Nir Hefetz, is suspected of having offered the job of attorney general in 2015 to former judge Hila Gerstl in exchange for a promise to close the criminal probes against his wife, Sara Netanyahu.
But even on Rothschild, there were Netanyahu loyalists to spare.
"I think Netanyahu should continue what he's doing, because he's doing the best job he can," Lisan, who refused to provide his last name, said. "I think he's a very good prime minister."
Ella Rotem, from Tel Aviv, wanted to remind readers Netanyahu has not yet been convicted of anything.
"Innocent until proven guilty," Rotem said.
Other passersby simply refused to comment.