Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, long seen as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s rival for leadership of the Likud, said Thursday that he believed he could form a government – and that he should be given the opportunity to do so. Speaking at the Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference in Yerushalayim, Sa’ar said that the Likud should hold primaries before the next election, giving him a chance to vie for the party’s top spot.
Reports earlier this week said that Netanyahu was planning to cancel primaries, which are supposed to take place when the Knesset disperses, in order to accommodate MKs from other parties that he seeks to include in the Likud, such as Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. But it would be more proper to hold primaries and let party members decide how the Likud list should look.
While Sa’ar appreciated Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government, “if we go to third elections I don’t see a logical way that Netanyahu can form a government without primaries. That would be the proper thing to do. I believe I could form a government and unite the nation.”
Speaking at the conference earlier, Likud whip MK Yoav Kisch said that he was in favor of holding primaries as well. “There is no way we can cancel primaries, we are a democratic party,” said Kisch.
Sa’ar and Netanyahu had a falling out several years ago, and in September 2014, Sa’ar announced that he was taking a hiatus from politics, and in the intervening period, Netanyahu had accused Sa’ar of working against his leadership of the Likud. Last November, he accused Sa’ar of conspiring with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend someone other than Netanyahu to form the next coalition if and when elections take place. Sa’ar denied the accusations. Sa’ar was welcomed back to the party’s ranks before the April elections.
Earlier, the Yesh Atid party cancelled its next primary, and proclaimed chairman MK Yair Lapid as its undisputed leader for at least the next three Knesset sessions. The party was supposed to conduct primaries at the end of the term of the 22nd Knesset – a date that is likely to come within three weeks, if, as expected, no government is formed. Under the proclamation by the party’s steering committee Thursday, Lapid will function as party head through the end of term of the 25th Knesset.
With the expiration of the mandate given to Benny Gantz to form a government now passed, after Binyamin Netanyahu previously failed to form one, the Knesset now enters a 21-day period that will be a last-ditch attempt to form a government. If one is not formed by the end of that period, the Knesset will be dispersed and new elections will be called.