Bibi to stand again despite ratings crash


Benjamin Netanyahu's approval ratings have plummeted following the ceasefire as a combination of media criticism, attacks from rivals and a general disappointment that the operation failed to yield new security arrangements in Gaza have taken their toll.

From the height of popularity last month, when a Channel Two poll gave Mr Netanyahu 82 per cent approval, last week he was down to only 32 per cent.

The disillusionment with Mr Netanyahu's leadership could be temporary, however, as most Israelis do not seem to see an alternative for now.

The current government could serve for up to three more years, and none of the parties in the coalition are currently threatening to bring it down.

Despite that, many political insiders are predicting that it will be difficult for the coalition to continue much longer in its current form.

Possible near-term trip-wires include the debate over the next state budget and demands from centrist parties Yesh Atid and Hatnuah to return to talks with the Palestinians.

If any of the parties leave the coalition, Mr Netanyahu has alternatives in the shape of Labour and Shas, who may join a new coalition, or he could call new elections.

In a weekend interview with Channel One, the prime minister said: "I don't think we need to bring elections forward, but when they are held, I will be there." Despite the fluctuations in his approval ratings, the polls indicate that if elections were held today, Likud would still be the largest party and Mr Netanyahu would able to form a coalition with a combination of right-wing and centrist or religious parties.

If he succeeds in winning fourth term, he could surpass the 13 years David Ben-Gurion spent in office and become Israel's longest-serving prime minister.

No politician currently seems to be capturing the public's imagination and posing a threat to Mr Netanyahu.

Outside politics however, the most talked-about candidate is former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, currently heading a cyber-security firm. He has emerged on Facebook and in media appearances as an eloquent and authoritative critic of Mr Netanyahu's policies, calling for a firm security strategy and flexible diplomacy with the Palestinians.

Mr Diskin, who according to the polls is widely popular, is currently being courted by the parties of the centre and left.

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