Survey: Sa’ar as Likud leader would cost party at polls

The Likud would drop to 26 seats if led by the challenger who wants to hold snap primaries to unseat Netanyahu.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A poll publicized Tuesday evening shows that the public has much less faith in Gideon Sa’ar as a leader than in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the party’s strength in the Knesset would fall some 20 percent if he took over the Likud.

During the current last-gasp search for a way to form a government before elections are called for the third time in a year, the sixth ranked Likud member said that he could “unite the country” if he led the Likud in a unity government with the Blue and White party.

However, with Sa’ar at its head, the Likud would be a junior partner in such a government, if the Channel 12 poll is correct. With Sa’ar at the helm, the Likud party would fall to 26 Knesset seats and Blue and White would rise to 35.

In contrast, a Netanyahu-led Likud would win 33 seats – one more than it has today – thought still being edged out by Blue and White (34).

Survey participants also gave the prime minister’s only public challenger a much lower grade in leadership abilities.

Even though the public is aware that Netanyahu will have to fight off serious corruption charges in court in the coming months, he still led Blue and White leader Benny Gantz 40 percent to 39 percent in the question who was best suited to lead the country.

When Sa’ar was substituted for Netanyahu, he only received 23 percent of the respondents’ vote of confidence, with Gantz adding 1 percent to his total.

Sa’ar nevertheless expressed his determination to push for primaries in a Channel 13 interview the evening before the poll came out.

It is “obscene,” he said, to be called a “traitor to the [Likud] family” simply because he threw his hat into the ring for party leadership.

He also criticized a Saturday night tweet from the official Likud spokesman that said, “As usual, Gidon Sa’ar reveals zero loyalty and maximum subversion.”

Although he would not say who he thought ordered the online post, he said it was “an improper use of [party] resources that indicates a lack of inhibitions” that never would have happened “in other times.”

“With all due respect, the party does not belong to any single person. Every member can compete in it, and every member can vote in it. I see panic at the possibility of primaries,” he said, and called on the prime minister to hold them quickly to prevent the need for additional elections.

“I am contending out of a deep feeling that if there won’t be a change, we are either going to continue with the country’s political crisis for an unknown period of time, or pass the government with our own hands over to our political rivals,” he said.