Wednesday, 11 Dec 2019 - 13 of Kislev, 5780

Gideon Saar challenges Netanyahu’s Likud leadership

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Most senior Likud officials have come out in support of Netanyahu, stating that legally he does not have to resign and can continue serving as Prime Minister. Conspicuously silent are Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein who haven’t commented on Netanyahu’s indictment or Saar’s challenge.

JERUSALEM—Senior Likud Member of the Knesset Gideon Saar openly challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership in an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 News on Saturday, saying the Prime Minister (and Likud leader) had no chance of forming a government even “after a third, fourth, fifth or sixth” election.

He called called for snap primaries to be held in order to “avoid a third election” and save the Likud. Yet Saar stopped short of calling for Netanyahu to step down after his indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust last week.

Sa’ar has criticized Netanyahu for labeling the indictments as “an attempted coup,” while expressing confidence that he would be able form a unity government where Netanyahu has failed.

Likud MK Michal Shir, who supports Sa’ar’s bid for the party leadership told JNS that many within the Likud favor a snap primary. “I am not the only one in Likud who believes that the party needs a new leader at this time and that Netanyahu needs to focus on his legal issues,” Shir said.

Yet many within the party are still placing their support firmly behind Netanyahu’s continued leadership.  Likud Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that “primaries for chairman of the party at this time would hurt the party.”

Saar’s challenge and snap primary demand were met largely with silence from other Likud figures. Only one other Likud Knesset member spoke out – former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat floated his own proposal for the election of a Likud deputy leader – without demanding Netanyahu resign.

Most senior Likud officials have come out in support of Netanyahu, stating that legally he does not have to resign and can continue serving as Prime Minister. Conspicuously silent are Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein who haven’t commented on Netanyahu’s indictment or Saar’s challenge.

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had agreed to hold Likud leadership primaries “within six weeks.”

Despite his unprecedented legal troubles, Netanyahu seems to have stopped a full Likud rebellion. The Israeli Parliament has 16 days left to form a government before third elections are automatically triggered. The Likud primaries will likely be held after this period ends, thus making a fracturing of the party – led by Saar – extremely unlikely.

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