Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu turned down a proposal last month from senior Likud officials to run for the presidency, to clear the path for a right-wing government.
After making queries, they informed Netanyahu that he was likely to succeed, he turned them away, saying: “I am not interested. It’s better to be the leader of the opposition” than to be president, according to The Times of Israel on Thursday.
Netanyahu reportedly had asked whether it was viable. “Are you sure this thing has a majority?”
They answered in the affirmative and continued to explore the possibility.
By their head-count, Netanyahu would have defeated Yitzchak Herzog, who was subsequently elected.
Netanyahu’s advisers also consulted legal experts, ascertaining that his candidacy would probably be allowed to stand by the High Court, even though he is currently on trial for bribery and breach of trust.
It was believed that if someone else were to assume leadership of the Likud, it would quickly pave the way for Yamina and New Hope to join a right-wing coalition, as the latter party’s leader Gideon Saar would not relent on his promise not to serve in a government with Netanyahu.
One of the Likud officials involved in the matter was quoted as saying that it was “a missed opportunity.”
“The premiership and the presidency could have been in the hands of Likud today,” the official said. “Now we are left with nothing. There were even MKs in the [political] center and left who were willing to support Netanyahu [for president], because they believed that it would prevent a fifth election.”