Most Israelis oppose plea deal in Netanyahu trial, polls show

Most Israelis oppose a plea deal in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, according to three separate TV polls released Sunday.

Talks over a possible plea deal for Netanyahu in his criminal trial have progressed in recent weeks, with a potential solution found to the main sticking point between his team and prosecutors, Hebrew media reported over the weekend. Netanyahu resisted a deal primarily because of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s demand that his actions be labeled as carrying “moral turpitude” – legally barring him from public office for seven years.

In polls released Sunday, opposition to such a deal appeared to be a consensus among all Israelis, regardless of political affiliation, although likely for different reasons.

Forty-six per cent of respondents to a Channel 13 news poll said they were against a plea deal, 29 per cent supported it and 25 per cent said they didn’t know.

The Kan public broadcaster published similar figures: 49% think Netanyahu’s trial should continue in court, 28% support a plea deal and 23% did not offer an opinion on the matter.

And the Channel 12 News poll found 51% are against a plea deal, 30% support it and 19% are undecided.

Of those who identified as right-wing, 51% opposed and 31% favored a plea deal; of those who identified as left-leaning, 54% opposed and 31% supported it, Channel 12 reported.

Right-wing Israelis are against a plea deal because they believe Netanyahu is innocent, and the court will eventually throw out his cases. On the left, people say a plea deal would send the wrong message and that Netanyahu should go to jail.

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud MKs, gives a statement to the press ahead of the start of his trial at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Channel 12 asked respondents what they think should happen if Netanyahu is forced to end his political career. Thirty-nine percent said the current diverse government of left and right parties should stay, 24% said Likud led by another lawmaker should lead the coalition, and 28% said Israel should lead to a new round of elections.

In a potential election, Likud would win 33 seats if led by Netanyahu. But in the event the former prime minister ends his political career, the party would get 29 seats with Nir Barkat at the helm, 20 with Yuli Edelstein and 19 with Israel Katz, Channel 12 found.

Likud last held primaries in 2019. The party is notoriously opposed to leadership changes and has been led by Netanyahu for nearly two decades.

The Channel 12 survey was conducted by Mano Geva, involved a sample of 502 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points; Channel 13 was conducted by Ariel Ayalon and Yousef Maklada, involved a sample of 601 people and had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points; Kan’s was conducted online, involved a sample of 553 people, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

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