Likud: New Primaries Possible Within Weeks

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering holding primaries in the Likud within the next few weeks, the party said in a statement Thursday. The purpose of the primaries, Yisrael Hayom quoted the party statement as saying, was to do away with rumors of a dissident group within the party that is said to be seeking to replace Netanyahu as party head.

The announcement comes on the background of the failed talks between the Likud and Blue and White on a unity government. A meeting between Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz set for Wednesday was postponed indefinitely by Gantz.

On Thursday, Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, with no concrete results, both parties said. After the meeting, Liberman said in a social media post that his objective – a unity government consisting of Likud, Blue and White, and his party – had not changed.

No date has been mentioned for the primaries, but the report said that it could take place immediately after the holidays. If Netanyahu returns the mandate to President Reuven Rivlin for forming a government before the weekend, as many expect him to, “after the holidays” will be right after the period that Gantz will have been given to form a government instead of Netanyahu – and if, as expected, he fails to do so, new elections will be called.

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar. (Flash90)

Among Likud MKs, the only one who is thought to be considering running against Netanyahu is Gideon Sa’ar, considered a viable replacement candidate whom Netanyahu has long held at arm’s distance. In a social media post Thursday, Sa’ar said that he was “ready” for the primaries, but did not specify what he was ready for.