Likud Knesset member Gideon Sa’ar announced on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the uncontested leader of the Likud Party, but said that he would challenge Netanyahu for leadership of the party at the next Likud primary.
“The Likud central committee conference isn’t necessary,” Sa’ar posted on Twitter Saturday night. “No one is undermining the prime minister as head of the Likud. When there is an opportunity to make a challenge for the party leadership—like the one initiated by the PM himself just a few days ago—I will run.”
Sa’ar referred to the announcement on Thursday by the Likud that it would convene a primary to demonstrate the party’s loyalty to the prime minister, who has not succeeded in building a government coalition and who is facing three separate corruption cases.
“I’m ready,” Sa’ar tweeted after the Thursday announcement, indicating that he was prepared for the primary run. The Likud subsequently abandoned plans for a primary.
Sa’ar has long commanded a loyal following within the Likud, and has been considered a possible contender for the top slot.
A statement released after Sa’ar’s Saturday tweet by individuals “close to the prime minister” claimed that “the putsch is dead,” seeming to confirm a statement by Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Thursday that the idea of holding a primary had been raised to force Sa’ar to commit one way or the other.
Reports indicate that several Likud ministers warned Netanyahu that holding a primary now was not advisable, and to wait to hold new internal elections.
Likud’s last primaries were in 2014.
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