A day before the Likud is set to vote on conducting new primaries in advance of elections, the first Likud Knesset member has endorsed Gideon Saar for leadership of the party.
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was an excellent leader who brought the right to many achievements,” MK Yoav Kisch said Saturday night. “But looking at the current situation and anticipating elections in which Netanyahu is to lead the party, I see no way out of the current situation.”
Speaking in an interview, Kisch said that he was “among the first MKs to vote to disband the Knesset, which led to the April elections. We thought we would get more seats and ensure that the right would be able to form a government, but we came back with 55 MKs in the right-wing bloc and a dilemma that prevents us from forming a government.
“Gideon Saar will be able to unify elements in the party in order to enable us to ensure a right-wing government. Polls that I have seen show that he increases the strength of the right.”
A poll Friday showed that Netanyahu was a stronger candidate than Saar, garnering more seats for the Likud – but if Saar were the Likud’s candidate, the right-wing/chareidi bloc would grow. With Netanyahu at the helm, the Likud would get 33 seats, with Shas getting 8, United Torah Judaism 7, and the New Right 6, for a total of 54 seats, similar to the number the bloc currently has. Blue and White would get 35 seats, and both Labor and Democratic Camp would get 5 seats, giving Benny Gantz 45 seats he could count on. The United Arab List would get 13 seats, and Yisrael Beytenu would get 8.
If Saar were to head the Likud, the party would get just 31 seats, with other parties on the right achieving the same results. But in a Saar scenario, Yisrael Beytenu would fall to 7 seats, and the Jewish Home party – which under a Netanyahu scenario does not pass the electoral threshold – would get 4 seats. If Saar were to lead the Likud and Jewish Home does get into the Knesset, the right-wing/chareidi bloc would get 57 seats.
Kisch said that he was not the only Likud MK who felt this way. “There are many others who think the way I do. Our message to the public is that there are many of us who love Netanyahu, and that includes me. But we need to think about how to win, and we will only be able to do that with Gideon Saar,” he said.