Gideon Saar, accused of undermining Netanyahu, to run in Likud primaries

Gideon Saar, a former Netanyahu confidante, announced on Tuesday he will fight for a spot in Likud.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Gideon Saar, a former Netanyahu confidante, formally declared his intention to run in the Likud primaries which will take place next month in an announcement on Tuesday morning.

In an interview with Israel’s Kan Bet station, Saar said, “”Whoever still had any doubts, I’m declaring my candidacy in the coming primaries. I believe that my success in the run-up elections will help the Likud to succeed in the general elections.”

Saar said he doesn’t deal in “speculation,” but hoped he would win a respectable position in the party and become part of the group that leads it.

Returning politician

“A year and a half ago, I announced that I was returning to public activity and since I have been researching the lay of the land and conducting political and public activities,” he said.

The former cabinet secretary, coalition chairman, minister of the interior and education minister in Likud-led governments took a break from politics in November 2015. He announced his return in April 2017.

Saar said he worries about the general elections. “I’m not one of those who thinks the elections in front of us will be easy.”

In October, Saar faced harsh accusations from Netanyahu associates, who accused him of planning a “putsch” by conspiring with President Reuven Rivlin to have himself appointed to form a government in the next elections instead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Israel, following elections, the president, largely a figurehead position, appoints a member of the  party most likely to successfully form a government. Although it has always been the leader of the party who is selected, there is no rule expressly forbidding the president from appointing another member of the winning party to take the reins.

Netanyahu accepted the accusations as true and told the press on Oct. 24, “For a number of weeks, I know that a former minister in the Likud is speaking to officials in the coalition and working on a maneuver to undermine me.” However, the prime minister did not submit proof.

Netanyahu’s fears led him to propose what has been dubbed the “Saar Law,” which would have amended Israel’s current election law to ensure that only heads of parties are chosen to form governments. Yesterday’s call for early elections will table the proposed “Saar Law” for the time being.

Success expected

Israel Hayom‘s Mati Tuchfeld reports Tuesday that, “In spite of Netanyahu’s attack on Saar, the Likud believes that Saar will get high on the list and will even win the position of Netanyahu’s replacement, if and when a Likud head-to-head  opens up after the election due to one situation or another.”

“I feel that I have wide support in the Likud movement. Likud members will decide if I represent them in the 21st Knesset,” Saar said on Tuesday.

Saar’s assessment is backed up by an event he held in the midst of the political storm swirling around Netanyahu’s accusations. Ostensibly a Hanukkah party, it became a show of force for the returning politician as hundreds of Likud supporters came to back him, including several party leaders.

Although bitterly attacked by Netanyahu’s associates for his alleged betrayal, Saar did not personally attack the prime minister and instead pledged his support. He has also backed Netanyahu in regard to the corruption cases brought against him, saying that any legal steps taken before Israel’s attorney general releases his findings in those cases would be a violation of Netanyahu’s individual rights.

Saar’s announcement to run comes in the wake of Monday’s surprise announcement by the government to dissolve and go to early elections in April.