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Israel PM plummets in polls after austerity move

Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu faces a ten percentage point drop in popularity; Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz suffers more, according to newly conducted poll

AFP , Thursday 2 Aug 2012
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Monday, (Photo: Reuters).
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's popularity has plummeted to its lowest point since his election in 2009 after he pushed through a series of tough austerity measures, a poll showed on Thursday.

Asked if they were satisfied or dissatisfied with Netanyahu's performance as prime minister, 60 percent said they were unhappy, while 31 percent said the opposite. The rest had no opinion.

The result of the Dialog poll, carried out on behalf of Haaretz newspaper, showed a fall of 10 percentage points in just a month, when 41 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with his performance, down from 51 percent the previous month.

Until recently, Netanyahu has enjoyed consistently good ratings, but his public approval began to slide over plans to change the law on military conscription, which saw him back moves to continue exempting tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz came out even worse, with two thirds -- or 67 percent -- dissatisfied with his performance, and less than a fifth -- 19 percent -- in favour.

Earlier this week, the cabinet voted through a package of austerity measures, central to which were a hike in income and sales taxes, as well as across-the-board cuts to the state budget.

Most of the measures, which are expected to further hit the underprivileged, are to take effect immediately.

The measures looked set to inflame already widespread anger over the soaring cost of living in the Jewish state, which saw mass protests sweeping the country last summer. There have been renewed protests this year.

Haaretz said the survey reflected widespread anger towards Netanyahu and his finance minister, and indicated "that the government's socio-economic agenda is an electoral disaster" for the premier's ruling right-wing Likud party.

"Netanyahu is still seen as a candidate without rivals, but his position has weakened considerably. In this atmosphere, it is clear that Netanyahu has no interest in holding an early election," the paper said.

"On the contrary, he will strive to put an election off as much as possible and change the government's agenda so it focuses on strategic security-related issues ahead of an election.

General elections are due to take place in October 2013.

The survey will be published in full in Friday's edition of the paper. No margin of error was given.

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