Netanyahu’s rival in Likud is ‘ready’ to challenge PM if party primary called

Netanyahu, the Likud chairman, reportedly told a party meeting on Thursday that if there isn’t unity within the Likud, a primary would be necessary.

By World Israel News Staff 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is floating the idea of holding a snap primary for the position of chairman of his Likud party, according to a party statement, with the intended aim of showing the political establishment, especially the rival Blue and White faction, that he is in firm control of the post.

However, when word emerged of a potential internal election, Likud MK Gideon Saar tweeted: “I’m ready.”

Saar has been viewed as a leading challenger to the throne of the party leadership.

He had taken a break from politics but ran in the April Knesset election, after having earned one of the leading positions in a party primary for the parliamentary list that preceded the April election. The Likud maintained the same list for the September 17 vote.

The Likud statement on Thursday said that a primary would achieve the aim of quashing the impression that Netanyahu faces a rebellion within the party “as other parties hope,” a reference to the belief that Blue and White is stalling in efforts to form a national unity government amid the belief that either the attorney general will soon decide that the prime minister should be indicted on corruption charges, or that some other MK will emerge from within the Likud as a successor to Netanyahu, with whom Blue and White would be willing to arrange a rotation for the position of premier in a unity coalition.

Though showing certain signs of flexibility from within, there has been opposition in Blue and White to sharing the position of prime minister with Netanyahu as his attornies make his case at a pre-trial hearing that he should not be indicted.

Asked by reporters at a Likud meeting on Thursday afternoon about his intention to possibly challenge Netanyahu, Saar said that he would make an “orderly” announcement when the picture over whether there will be a primary becomes clear.

At the same Likud meeting, which took place in the Knesset just before the opening of the new parliament following the September 17 election, Netanyahu did not make clear whether he intended to call for a party primary, though a political reporter on Kan public television voiced the assessment that when, during a photo opportunity at the start of the meeting, the prime minister called for “unity” among the party ranks, he was hinting at the need to support him.

Behind closed doors after the photo opportunity, Netanyahu reportedly said that if there isn’t unity within the Likud, a primary would be necessary.

“There is no choice but to carry out the will of the people,” the prime minister told the Likud MKs in referring to efforts to form a unity government with Blue and White.

MK Yair Lapid, the number two parliamentarian on the Blue and White list, appeared on Thursday to remove one stumbling block toward forming a joint coalition with the Likud by stating that in the name of national unity, he would not insist on implementing a rotation agreement he had reached with the head of his faction, Benny Gantz, for holding the position of prime minister in a government led only by Blue and White.