One issue we’ve discussed since Saturday’s attacks is what effect the Hamas attacks and subsequent Israel-Hamas war would have on public opinion in Israel. Specifically, would there be a rally round the flag boost for the government of Benjamin Netanyahu? As I’ve tried to argue, it was not at all clear this would be the case. There’s been a great deal of anecdotal and reported evidence to the contrary. If you watch Israeli media there’s clearly been a vast upsurge of social solidarity and support for retaliation against Hamas (that civilians in Gaza will pay a heavy price for). But there’s been very, very little evidence of any surge in support for Netanyahu or his government. Indeed, we see signs of a volcanic anger against his government over its responsibility for the events of last weekend. There have been a number of viral videos of members of the coalition heckled in public or shouted down or forced to leave events in response to public anger.
Now we have one of the first polls and it appears to confirm all of that, a vast sea of public anger and catastrophic loss of support for Netanyahu’s government.
Polls are always just snapshots in time, even more so in such chaotic circumstances. But this poll from the Israeli daily Maariv paints a clear and devastating picture of initial public reactions. The results show drops for almost every party in the government and a dramatic drop for Likud, from 32 to 19 seats. In total it’s well below a majority. There is meanwhile a huge gain for the party of Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff who just joined the national unity government. That party, somewhat confusingly also called National Unity, goes from 12 seats to 41. There are a bunch of other changes but those are the key ones.
I want to stress again that more than your average poll you can’t by any means draw a line from this to some hypothetical future election. You’re taking a poll in the midst of a vast shock to the political system and a non-trivial physical dislocation of the population. More than half a million reservists have been called to active duty; people are spending time in shelters; whole communities in the south have been evacuated, etc.
But what this shows pretty clear is that the current government has not benefited at all from the current crisis. On the contrary there’s a major backlash against the current government and a big surge of support for the opposition, especially Benny Gantz’s centrist/ex-general-heavy party.