Netanyahu rival Gideon Saar returns to politics

Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar told party activists that “the timeout is over” as he announced his return to the political stage.

Addressing a Likud pre-Passover toast in Akko, north of Haifa, on Monday evening, Gideon Sa’ar, former education and interior minister, stressed that Israel must resist international and domestic pressure to return to the pre-1967 borders.

“We stand at the eve of Passover. This holiday is called Zman Heruteinu (Time of our Liberation). What is true freedom? For us to be ourselves. We became an independent nation when we left Egypt, and on the eve of Passover we must ask ourselves who are we as a state, as a people and as a Likud movement,” he said.

“The Likud has always championed preservation of the Land of Israel in its entire length and breadth, and has insisted on these things as the protective wall of the State of Israel,” he added.

“I am back in politics for the good of the Likud, for the good of the people of Israel and for the good of the State of Israel. I’m coming back to shore up the Likud [and to prepare the party to face] challenges and to ensure that the Likud is the party of the future,” he stated.

Netanyahu ‘Stood Up to Burdensome Pressures’

The former minister, despite his political ambition, complimented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his diplomacy during the Obama administration, saying, “We have worked for eight years against a [US] government that did not see eye to eye with us, and I want to praise the prime minister, who stood up to these burdensome pressures and kept our interests intact. But the pressures, the challenges,and the problems are not behind us. And we see the danger of a return to the same outline of a demand from Israel to return to the 1967 lines, which we have believed and continue to believe endangers the future and security of Israel.”

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Sa’ar, who spent much of the last decade as a rising star in the party, abruptly resigned from the Knesset in October 2014, saying he wanted to spend time with his family. Sa’ar still has a strong network of support in the party and is considered a threat to Netanyahu’s position as party chairman.

Since then, most observers have assumed that he would eventually return to the political stage, but not necessarily to the Likud. Over the past year, reports surfaced that Moshe Kahlon (another former Likud member) had tried to woo Sa’ar to join his Kulanu faction, while former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon may have offered Sa’ar a senior role in the party he is planning to create ahead of the next election, currently scheduled for November 2019.

By: Andrew Friedman, TPS and World Israel News Staff