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Majority of Israelis mistrust motives of Netanyahu security statements: survey

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. Netanyahu says he will take over temporarily as defense minister as early elections still loom.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

58 percent of Israelis believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motives were political when he said it would be “irresponsible to topple the government” in the midst of a “sensitive security situation”, according to a Galatz radio survey released Tuesday morning.

31 percent believed the Israeli leader was genuine in his concern for their national security while a remaining 11 percent said they did not know.

The survey also revealed Education Minister and Jewish Home party chief Naftali Bennett will lose mandates in hypothetical upcoming national elections.

Meanwhile, the left-wing Meretz party is projected to barely scrape the threshold to earn enough mandates to receive seats in the Israeli parliament or Knesset.

Netanyahu's government was thrown into crisis last week after the shock resignation of Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday as defense minister over sharp disagreements with the prime minister over his handling of months of ongoing violence in Gaza.

MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP

The Galatz survey found that Liberman is benefiting from his resignation in terms of public opinion.

In defending his conduct, however, Netanyahu said that the public was not privy to all elements of the current security situation and defended his security credentials as he sought to hit back at criticism of last week's controversial ceasefire that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

Liberman's shock resignation left Netanyahu with a very narrow one-seat majority in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and the withdrawal of Bennett's Jewish Home faction would have toppled the government and forced early elections.

Bennett during a press conference at the Knesset on Monday morning responded to Netanyahu's argument that Israel was in an especially complicated security situation, saying the country has always faced threats and managed to overcome them.

In a surprise u-turn, Bennett climbed down from his threat after reports swirled that he and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, both members of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, were set to announce their resignation and pull their faction from Netanyahu's government, triggering early elections.

After meeting with his Kulanu party Monday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said a coalition with 61 members cannot hold. Kahlon announced that Kulanu has begun preparation for elections this May.

Thomas COEX (AFP)

Netanyahu has refused to give the post to Bennett, one of his main political rivals, despite the coalition crisis.

Bennett, whose far-right religious party holds eight seats in parliament, said he would give Netanyahu time to correct course on a range of issues.

"If the prime minister is serious in his intentions, and I want to believe his words from last night, I am saying here to the prime minister we are removing at this moment all of our political demands and will help you in the huge mission of making Israel win again," Bennett said in a statement to journalists broadcast live on television.

He acknowledged the backlash he may face for backing down from the earlier ultimatum.

"I know I'll pay a political price -- not the end of the world, you win some, you lose some," Bennett said.

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