Gideon Saar, once close to Israel’s prime minister, rushed to defend himself against charges of a putsch.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Former Netanyahu confidante Gideon Saar rushed to defend himself from accusations that he had tried to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the lead-up to the next elections.
“This is crossing a red line,” Saar said. “I helped Netanyahu get into power and I was never one of his enemies. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by promoters of evil and intrigue…. I call on the prime minister – show the public some proof or apologize.”
Saar served in several important posts in Netanyahu’s government before retiring from politics, including education minister and minister of the interior. He has since signaled his intention to re-enter the political arena.
Netanyahu associates accused Saar Wednesday of planning a “putsch” by attempting to have himself nominated by President Reuven Rivlin to form a government instead of Likud Party leader Netanyahu in the next elections, assuming a Likud victory.
The president’s role following elections is to ask the winner to form a government. This typically is the leader of the party with the most votes. However, the president has wide discretion and can theoretically choose any Knesset member to form a government.
But Saar insisted the whole story was a lie.
“I never talked to anyone about being given the task of forming a government,” he said. “What they’re trying to do to me now is what the prime minister often complains about: a field trial without proof.”
Saar’s accusers used the former education minister’s denial to condemn him further, labeling his interview a “hysterical reaction” that proves the accusations are true.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu indicated his belief in the report, which Israel Hayom broke yesterday. At his birthday celebration held at his office, Netanyahu told the press that, “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,” he said.
“I would bring the Likud to a sweeping victory, and after the election, they will make sure I won’t be prime minister, despite the will of Likud voters, of the public, despite democracy,” the prime minister added.
While a Netanyahu confidante labeled it the “stinkiest maneuver of all time,” President Reuven Rivlin denied the report, issuing a statement which read in part, “We had trouble finding any real information in the report other than a detailed description of paranoia that is not based on any real step or even a thought that actually happened.”
In the wake of the accusation, Likud MK David Amsalem proposed a new rule to formally limit the president’s selection powers to choosing the leader of the largest party.
Opposition members ridiculed Netanyahu for believing a putsch was in the offing. Zionist Union Party member Revital Swid waved a copy of Israel Hayom from the Knesset podium, Wednesday. “Look at the paranoia,” she said.
Commenting on Amsalem’s bill she said, “It’s clear that Netanyahu is in a panic. We are experiencing an insane wave of delirious lawmaking whose only purpose is the political survival of the prime minister.”