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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks during a ceremony whereby Amir Yaron is sworn in as Bank of Israel governor by President Reuven Rivlin, in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem December 24, 2018.(Photo by: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Netanyahu’s coalition partners stick with him as polls show downward trend
“I read the allegations,” Kahlon told Channel 12’s Meet the Press. “It’s not pleasant to read these things against the prime minister on Shabbat morning, but…I wasn’t surprised.”
The entire Right bloc said they would be willing to join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as of Saturday night, despite Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s intention to indict him, pending a hearing, but the latest polls show they may not be enough for a majority in the Knesset.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon broke his silence on Saturday night, saying he had “no problem” being in a Netanyahu-led government, even though “from a values and morals perspective I feel uncomfortable with our prime minister being suspected of such things.”
Mandelblit plans to indict Netanyahu on three counts each of fraud and breach of trust, and one charge of bribery, unless convinced otherwise in the prime minister’s hearing, which is set to take place after the April 9 elections.
“I read the allegations,” Kahlon told Channel 12’s Meet the Press. “It’s not pleasant to read these things against the prime minister on Shabbat morning, but... I wasn’t surprised.”
Kahlon added that he would not join a government led by Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz, saying: “At the moment, the alternative government rejects us.”
The reason, he said, is that Histadrut labor federation leader Avi Nissenkorn is fifth on their list and their economic views are drastically different from his own.
Most of the current coalition said on Thursday, immediately after Mandelblit’s announcement, that they would still support Netanyahu.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who pulled his party from the coalition in November, reiterated his willingness to remain in Netanyahu’s coalition, saying at a cultural event in Tel Aviv: “The only one in Israel who can decide if a person is guilty or innocent is the court. The presumption of innocence is for everyone, including the prime minister.”
As for Gantz, Liberman said: “Is there a chance that I will join a government under his leadership? [It is] nonexistent. I want a prime minister with executive abilities. I saw how [Gantz] commanded Operation Protective Edge” – Gantz was IDF chief of staff at the time – “and I never hid my opinions.”
However, two polls released Saturday night showed that, despite the support of all his current coalition partners plus Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu may not be able to form a majority coalition.
A poll for KAN Channel 11 gave Blue and White 37 seats and 29 for the Likud, followed by seven each for the New Right, Hadash-Ta’al and UTJ. Shas, Labor and Meretz each received six, followed by five each for UAL-Balad, United Right-Wing Parties (URP) and Kulanu.
That gives the right-wing bloc 59 seats, the Center-Left 49, and Arab parties, which have never joined a coalition, 12.
In a Channel 13 poll, Blue and White received 36 seats to the Likud’s 30. Hadash-Ta’al came in third place with nine seats, followed by seven each for UTJ and URP, and six each for Shas, Labor and Meretz. The New Right followed with five seats, and UAL-Balad and Kulanu each received four seats.
That makes 59 seats for the Right, 48 for the Center-Left and 13 for Arab parties
Yisrael Beytenu did not pass the 3.25% electoral threshold in either poll.
In the KAN poll, Zehut, led by former MK Moshe Feiglin, and Gesher, led by MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, each came close to the threshold with 3% each. Yisrael Beytenu only received 2% in the same poll.
In the Channel 13 poll, Zehut received 2.4% of the vote, 2.3% went to Gesher, and Yisrael Beytenu received 1.6%.
In KAN’s poll, 41% thought Gantz was the most appropriate candidate for prime minister, while 40% chose Netanyahu and 19% did not know.
When asked who is the most appropriate candidate for prime minister, 46% chose Netanyahu, 40% chose Gantz and 14% did not know in the Channel 13 poll.
In the same poll, 82% of respondents said they did not change their vote because of the attorney-general’s announcement, while 6% did, and 12% did not know.
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