Netanyahu, Sa’ar sharpen rhetoric as Likud primaries loom

Netanyahu and his main Likud rival, Gideon Sa’ar, have stepped up the tone of their attacks on one another. 

By World Israel News Staff

As a unity government looks increasingly unlikely, the two main rivals for the Likud party leadership have stepped up their attacks against one another ahead of party primaries for which a date has yet to be set.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck first. On Tuesday, Kan news reported that he told party activists, “We need to see who the Left wants and know not to put him in charge.”

He was referring to long-time Likud member and former education minister Gideon Sa’ar, who has emerged as his main challenger for the party leadership.

Sa’ar returned fire on Thursday morning in an interview with Ynet, accusing Netanyahu of giving the government as a “gift” to the Left. Sa’ar also blamed Netanyahu for attacks on him personally.

“All incitement comes from him. Those who call for primaries are violently attacked. Such bullying practices that have never been in the Likud,” Sa’ar said.

Sa’ar also blamed Netanyahu’s son, Yair, active on social media in defending his father.

“We’re coming to a very dangerous place,” Sa’ar said. “All this incitement comes from the prime minister and he never came out against it. Wild incitement is taking place on his behalf.”

Support for Sa’ar is growing, reports The Jerusalem Post, citing this as the reason that Netanyahu asked that a Likud central committee meeting be postponed. Sa’ar supporters hoped to use the meeting to set a date for Likud leadership primaries. The new date set for the central committee meeting is Sunday.

Sa’ar had argued after Netanyahu failed to set up a government following a second round of elections held on September 17 that Israel would head for a third elections if primaries weren’t held and someone else (he volunteered himself) given the reins.

He repeated his prediction on Wednesday, “If Netanyahu continues to lead the Likud, there are two options: one, that we will continue to be in the same situation and no one can form a government. Two, that we will give power to our political rivals as a gift and that is the danger I see right now. “