Likud primary soon, but not soon enough for Netanyahu challenger

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar is calling on Netanyahu “to reach conclusions” and step down.

By World Israel News Staff 

The Likud reportedly will hold a primary in the coming weeks for a leader of the party currently headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, the vote is not expected to take place before the expiration of the current 21-day period, which ends in mid-December, during which the Knesset has been given a mandate to name the next prime minister, reports Kan public broadcasting.

The reported agreement between Netanyahu and Likud Central Committee Chairman Haim Katz to hold off from scheduling a primary immediately is seen as countering the effort of Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who wishes to challenge Netanyahu and become prime minister.

On Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin informed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that neither of the leaders of the two largest parliamentary factions, Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, had been successful in forming a governing coalition in the aftermath of the September 17 Knesset election, and therefore, “for the first time” in Israeli history, the members of the Israeli parliament were being given the direct opportunity to choose any MK to become Israel’s next prime minister.

A parliamentarian receiving the support of 61 MKs in the 120-seat Knesset would become prime minister if he or she agreed.

According to the report, Netanyahu and Katz want to hold the Likud primary only once the Knesset is “dissolved,” meaning that they are hoping that parliament will be unsuccessful in naming a new premier and that the country will be forced to go to a third Knesset election within a year in lieu of the formation of a new government.

Sa’ar could be crowned as prime minister by his Knesset colleagues during the 21-day period even if Netanyahu remains Likud leader, but it would mean a rebellion by Likud MKs or at least other members of the prime minister’s current bloc, which includes right-wing and religious parties, who have pledged allegiance to the current prime minister.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday that Netanyahu would be indicted in connection to three cases of alleged corruption, including one in which the charges include bribery.

The prime minister has called it a witch-hunt.

Sa’ar is calling on Netanyahu “to reach conclusions” in the aftermath of his failure to form a government after both the April and September Knesset elections and to step down.