Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should not fire Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett for their insubordination, a majority of the public believes, according to a poll broadcast Thursday night on Channel 2.
The poll was taken by Shiluv Millward Brown Market Research following a press conference Wednesday in which Netanyahu expressed his anger at the ministers’ public criticism of him and urged them to “lend a hand and talk less.”
Netanyahu sparred earlier in the day with Bennett at a security cabinet meeting.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said neither minister should be fired, 17% said Netanyahu should sack both, 5% said dismiss only Liberman and 2% recommended firing only Bennett.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Netanyahu should fire them for their statements and for leaking information to the press but said the prime minister did not have the courage to take such a step.
“There were leaks in the past but what happened here was unprecedented,” Herzog said. “Ministers announce in advance of a security cabinet meeting what they intend to say and how they intend to vote. It harms the public and serves the enemy.”
Herzog said Netanyahu was busier fighting his ministers than finding solutions for residents of the Gaza periphery who are under fire. He urged the prime minister to “choke Hamas” while advancing a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
The poll found 56% agreed with Netanyahu that it was wrong of security cabinet ministers to publicly criticize him while Israel was under fire.
Nineteen percent disagreed and said the ministers had the right to speak their minds, while 25% did not know.
In the security cabinet meeting, Bennett criticized Netanyahu for negotiating with Hamas and tried to initiate a vote in which ministers would forbid future negotiations. Netanyahu complained in the meeting that Bennett told the public his decisions were grave.
When Netanyahu’s office leaked the argument, Bennett released a statement saying the prime minister’s criticism would not change his mind that it is wrong to negotiate with terrorists.
The prime minister’s approval rating continued to drop, according to the poll. It fell from 82% on July 23, as ground troops had already been in the Gaza Strip for six days, to just 55%. It was 57% in the first week of Operation Protective Edge and 63% when ground forces left Gaza and the operation appeared to have ended.