Netanyahu’s rival in Likud party demands leadership contest within two weeks

As corruption charges weigh heavily on Likud, Gideon Saar claims to have the necessary support to replace Netanyahu.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

On Saturday evening, senior Likud member Gideon Sa’ar slammed Benjamin Netanyahu for calling his prosecution an attempted “coup,” demanding a party leadership contest within two weeks.

Sa’ar also claimed he could “easily form a government,” Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu’s primary Likud rival also maintained that the prime minister’s response to the criminal charges he faces had further plunged the country into “chaos.”

After Netanyahu’s indictment was announced on Thursday, Sa’ar immediately said a party primary should be held ahead of any future elections and that he would compete.

“We know there are members of the Knesset who say that Netanyahu has become a liability and perhaps he should resign, but they are still afraid to come against him in the open,” said Eytan Gilboa, a political science professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University.

“The only one who could do it is Gideon Saar,” he added.

Some Likud members expressed support for Netanyahu after the indictment was announced, but most, including Saar and other prominent members, have remained silent.

Amid all the political machinations, Netanyahu will have to prepare to go on trial. He can battle the charges, or he might seek a plea bargain in which he agrees to resign in return for avoiding jail time or hefty fines. Either process could drag on for months.

Netanyahu is Israel’s first sitting prime minister to be charged with a crime. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was forced to resign a decade ago ahead of a corruption indictment that later sent him to prison for 16 months.