The Likud will hold primaries in two weeks, on Thursday, December 26, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu facing off against rival Gideon Sa’ar. Netanyahu and Sa’ar agreed on the date after a meeting Wednesday. Sa’ar expressed satisfaction at the decision, saying that he would “run a positive campaign, and I will present my ideas for how Israel should be run. We need national responsibility to solve the political crisis and establish a strong government to unite Israelis.”
So far, only two Likud MKs have publicly expressed support for Sa’ar – Yoav Kisch and Hadas Shir. Speaking on Reshet Bet Wednesday, Shir promised that others would come forward soon. “There are also ministers who support Sa’ar,” she said. “I will not reveal their names, they will do that themselves. Netanyahu has been unable to form a government twice already. If the choice is between the Likud forming a government or loyalty to a leader, as admired as he is, we would choose the former. Sa’ar could establish a government tomorrow morning.”
While only two MKs and no ministers have expressed support for Sa’ar so far, there are numerous Likud activists who have done so. Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said last week that “MK Sa’ar is a worthy candidate. It would be a most welcome event if he were to run for the leadership of the party in a primary.” In a social media post, Dagan said that “Prime Minister Netanyahu is one of the greatest political leaders to ever rise in Israel. With that, we must keep in mind that the national camp is in danger today. Under the current circumstances, and given that it appears impossible to establish a government, primaries are a must.”
Outright endorsing Sa’ar was Hananel Dorani, a former Council head and now mayor of the Shomron town of Kedumim. “With all the love we have for the prime minister, we must not allow ourselves to be in a situation where we lose out to the left. Prime Minister Netanyahu is a man of great accomplishment, who took a small country and turned it into a world power,” said Dorani. “I hope that Netanyahu will be able to establish a rightwing government in the time he has left. But as things stand it does not appear that things are going to change. I believe that if new elections are held, the rightwing bloc will shrink, and we will move further away from the 61 votes we needed to establish a government. The left could rise in power.”
To prevent this, the Likud needed to reiterate its approach to the election, said Dorani, and primaries were an appropriate way to do this. “As it appears we will be having new elections, we need to have primaries right away and choose a leader who will be able to establish a government that will advance the vital interests of the state. I support Gideon Sa’ar for this job,” said Dorani.
Dagan and Dorani are not the first Likud activists to come out in favor of Sa’ar. In recent days, Sa’ar has gotten nods from numerous Likud movers, including Holon Deputy Mayor Ezra Setton, Lod Likud chapter head Emil Hadad, Netanya Deputy Mayor Akiva Yitzchaki, Akko Likud chapter head Rotem Ohana, Ramat Aviv Likud chapter head Yaakov Dangor, and Metulla Council head David Azoulay.