Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting on expanding the constitutionally mandated primary to elect a Likud party chairman to include full primaries for the party’s Knesset list. Those have been conducted in February 2019, and although there has not been a functioning Knesset since, Netanyahu is free to argue that an upcoming new election (which is being anticipated) require everybody to run in the primaries.
Except that only last week, Netanyahu reached an agreement with Likud Center Chairman MK Haim Katz to cancel the primaries for the party list.
As a result, the Likud Center, which was scheduled to convene next week – will not be convened for now, Reshet Bet radio reported Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s major foe inside Likud, MK Gideon Sa’ar, approached Katz to convene the Likud Center and decide on early elections for party leader as soon as possible. Sa’ar stressed that the move would prevent the country from deteriorating into new and needless elections, which the prime minister himself defined as the system going bonkers.
Sa’ar claimed that it’s still possible to form a new government in the current Knesset and thus end the political crisis the country has been experiencing for close to a year. He also reminded Katz that 17 years ago,it took three weeks to arrange a primary vote to choose between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then contender, Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s circle is working on a statement they want the rightwing bloc party leaders to issue, that Netanyahu is their only candidate to form a government. This is an attempt to thwart MK Sa’ar’s claim that Netanyahu is no longer able to form a government.
Likud MK Mickey Zohar told Reshet Bet Sunday morning regarding the indictments against Netanyahu that had he seen a valid suspicion that the prime minister was acting to advance his own economic interests, he, Zohar, would have called for his termination. But when he saw how the investigation was being conducted, he realized it was a dirty and crazy investigation.
Zohar said the prime minister should seek immunity from prosecution because of the political witch hunt against him. He said the police had “lost it,” and is persecuting the prime minister under media pressure.
“I want the public to judge who will be the prime minister and not any other entity,” he said.
Former minister Limor Livnat (Likud) believes Gideon Sa’ar’s call for Likud chairman primaries is courageous and shows leadership. Livnat told Reshet Bet that she is waiting to hear from other Likud officials about their position on the issue. She emphasized that she had never before experienced such silence in confronting the party leader, and blamed Netanyahu of a scorched earth strategy.
“The prime minister is innocent until proven guilty,” she said, but this must be proven “only in court and not in the street.”
Blue&White chairman MK Benny Gantz on Saturday night urged Likud members to join him in order to form a government he would head: “Likud leaders, I call for a partnership with you. You share the Zionist values of unity, security and a strong economy. This is your time to put past threats aside, and to march Israeli society into an age of healing and recovery.”
Gantz explained: “I will serve as prime minister for the first two years. If Netanyahu is acquitted, he can return to serve as prime minister. It’s the only alternative to a new election.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide this week whether Netanyahu can continue to serve as minister in the portfolios he controls. This is because, according to the law, a minister charged with crimes must submit his resignation to the prime minister immediately.
Also, in response to Blue&White inquiries, Mandelblit will also consider whether Netanyahu can continue to serve as prime minister after the indictments are officially filed.