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Poll: Bennett Comes Out on Top After Netanyahu Spat

Following spat over 'Jews in Palestine' proposal, new poll shows Likud Beytenu drops to 30 seats, Jewish Home up to 17.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 1/30/2014, 4:04 PM

Bennett and Netanyahu
Bennett and Netanyahu
Flash 90

A new poll, conducted by "Panels Politics" for the Knesset TV Channel, reveals that the crisis between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett that began this Sunday and threatened to break up the coalition has apparently ended in Bennett's favor.

Netanyahu was reportedly livid after Bennett criticized his proposal to have Jews in Judea and Samaria live under the Palestinian Authority (PA). Netanyahu claims to have made the proposal as a tactic to reveal the PA's "true face;" PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected any Jewish presence on Sunday, echoing previous statements by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

After an ultimatum was delivered giving Bennett the choice to apologize or step down, Bennett apologized to Netanyahu for any offense caused, but refused to back down on his essential position, saying it was his obligation to criticize when needed and claiming that his prompt criticism had nipped in the bud what would have been an unacceptable abandonment of more than half a million Israelis.

The new poll reveals that following the political clashes, were a general election to be held Netanyahu's Likud Beytenu would drop one seat to 30 mandates, while Bennett's Jewish Home would jump to 17 seats - five more than its current showing.

The Jewish Home would not be the only party to benefit from an election today; the left-wing Labor party would grow to 19 seats (from 15), and the far-left Meretz would nearly double its strength from six to 11. In contrast, the losers would include Yair Lapid's center-left Yesh Atid, which would drop sharply from 19 to just 12 mandates; Shas, which would lose four of its current 11 seats and Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party, which would drop from six to four.

Reports by a senior coalition member who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that the entire crisis was engineered by a senior member of Netanyahu's office to develop a rift between the two parties.

According to the source, the member of Netanyahu's office managed to "turn the whole thing into an unnecessary conflagration between the two men," as opposed to a debate over policy, adding that the issue had gone "beyond a joke and an embarrassment."

Apparently the voting public agreed, as the political tactic to sow tension has turned against Netanyahu according to the recent poll.

On a related note, a scenario poll announced on the Knesset TV channel this Tuesday found that if Netanyahu were to break off from Likud over in order to push forward a peace deal against the party's will which would include large Israeli withdrawals - in a similar fashion to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's founding of Kadima - he would create the largest party but only by 1 seat.

That poll also indicated that nearly 50% of Netanyahu's breakaway support would come from Yisrael Beytenu voters, but that he would not take votes from Likud.