Public questions Netanyahu's promise to cancel cutbacks

Poll: Only 6 percent of the public feels Steinitz fit to serve as finance minister.

Netanyahu under pressure 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu under pressure 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite assurances from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that budget cutbacks will not hurt the country's needy, public confidence in the premier reached a low Tuesday with more than half the public expressing various degrees of doubt that he would stick to his promises, according to a poll taken Sunday and Monday by the social empowerment organization Yedid. The survey, which involved 504 telephone interviews with Israelis over the age of 18, also showed that only 6 percent of the public felt Likud MK Yuval Steinitz was fit to serve as finance minister, while one-third said the current education minister, Gideon Sa'ar, would be far more appropriate. "People need someone they can trust running the Finance Ministry and Sa'ar has consistently proven that he is reliable," commented Yedid's deputy director, Ran Melamed. "I was rather surprised about this response." However, Melamed said he was not surprised that more than half the public questioned the prime minister's promise to cancel planned cutbacks to the social welfare sector. According to the survey, 41% of the respondents said they did not believe Netanyahu would cancel the cutbacks, and 12% said they had doubts. Only 19% said they believed he would keep his promise. Full details of the 2009 budget were not yet clear Tuesday as negotiations over the fine print went on late into the night. On Monday, however, the prime minister had announced his willingness to cancel a number of proposals, including extra taxes on working mothers and a reduction in National Insurance Institute payments to Holocaust survivors and the disabled. "I think this study shows that despite what politicians think, the public fully understands what is going [on] and will not forget in a hurry proposals that directly affect them," said Melamed, who added that he hoped policymakers would consider these views when voting for the budget. In addition to national perceptions of the prime minister and finance minister, the survey also quizzed respondents on whether more socially-focused political parties such as Labor and Shas should remain in the government if budget cuts end up hurting the weak and needy. Nearly half (44%) were emphatic in saying that Labor should leave the government if a budget that hurts the social welfare sector is passed, and 41% said they would expect the same of Shas.