Maariv newspaper poll showed former Defence Minister Benny Gantz favoured for prime minister by 48%



Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu built his reputation as a security hawk on the back of his service in an elite special forces unit that carried out some of Israel’s most daring hostage rescues.

His legacy as his country’s longest serving leader will now be shaped by one of the worst security failures it has known and by the fate of more than 200 hostages seized by Palestinian Hamas gunmen from Gaza who Israel says killed 1,400 people on the deadliest day of its 75-year-old history.

The scale of the killing, accounts of trauma and images of the violence that emerged from the southern Israeli communities around Gaza have shaken the country.

In his sixth term as prime minister, Netanyahu, 74, heads one of Israel’s most extreme right-wing coalitions and has come under increasing pressure as the initial shock has given way to fury at the failures that allowed the attack to take place.

He has refused to accept responsibility, saying only that everyone will have to answer difficult questions when the war with Hamas is over, and in one of his rare press conferences, dismissed a question asking if he would resign.

But the mood of the country has turned, according to opinion polls showing a large majority blaming him, underpinned by images of cabinet ministers being abused in public when they step out of their official cars.

An October 18-19 Maariv newspaper poll showed former Defence Minister Benny Gantz, an opposition centrist party head in a newly formed unity government, was favoured for prime minister by 48% of respondents, compared with only 28% for Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu is going to go. Just like the top military, the intelligence and GSS (intelligence service) officials. Because they failed,” the daily newspaper Israel Hayom wrote in an editorial this week.

Facing trial on corruption charges, which he denies, his popularity had already been dented by a bitter battle over plans to curb the powers of the Supreme Court, which brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets for months.

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