Likud No. 2 Edelstein Will Stay No. 2, For Now

By Hamodia Staff

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – As Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu surveyed his possible return path to power, one hurdle was conveniently removed from that path—Likud No. 2 Yuli Edelstein.

Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker and health minister said on Thursday that he has decided not to pursue his previously stated intention to challenge Netanyahu for leadership of the Likud, after all.

“Wherever I went, I have always put the Likud movement first,” Edelstein said in a statement. “Now, when we face a critical election for the State of Israel, I cannot drag Likud into an internal fight, and I have therefore decided to retract my candidacy for the party chairmanship in the upcoming election.”

A month ago, as the Bennett-Lapid coalition began to disintegrate, a confident Edelstein called for a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership.

“If Netanyahu knows how to assemble a government in the current Knesset, I definitely won’t stand in his way because I said the State of Israel doesn’t need elections. If not, then hold a competition for leadership of the party,” Edelstein told Channel 12 news. “I usually don’t get into fights that I don’t think I can win,” for those who doubted his ability to oust him.

But now that Netanyahu did not succeed in forming a government before the Knesset dispersed early Thursday, Edelstein has evidently had second thoughts.

Other Likud leaders have also reportedly been thinking out loud about a run for the party chairmanship, such as former mayor of Yerushalayim Nir Barkat and former transportation minister Yisrael Katz. Neither has been heard from as yet.

They too may hold back on challenging Netanyahu at this juncture. A Midgam poll published Wednesday night predicted 34 seats for a Netanyahu-led Likud if elections were held now, with a strong showing by the religious parties. If Yamina, now led by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, joins them, the right-wing bloc would have a majority 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Nor have Edelstein and company forgotten what happened to Gideon Sa’ar, who was crushed by Netanyahu in a 2019 Likud primary, 72.5 percent to 27.5. Sa’ar subsequently left Likud and started the New Hope party, which became part of the now-outgoing coalition, and polling at around 4 seats, just enough to make it back to the Knesset, if its support holds up until November 1.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu released a statement in response to Edelstein, saying that “I am sure that we can work together, as we have done in the past, together with all the members of the party for a Likud victory, for a great victory for the state of Israel.”

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