Ex-Minister Sa’ar Rules Out Running in Likud Primaries if They’re Moved Up

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says he’ll be happy to run with Sa’ar in new political partnership.

Gideon Sa'ar, Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Kahlon during the Likud 2013 election campaign.
Nir Kafri

Gideon Sa’ar announced Thursday that he will not run in the Likud primaries if they are held earlier than originally planned. Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, meanwhile, did not discount the possibility of setting up a new political partnership with his former Likud colleague.

Sa’ar quit Likud and the Knesset in September 2014, with the ex-interior minister saying he wanted to take a time-out from politics. He has long been eyed as a potential successor or rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within Likud. Netanyahu is expected to bring a proposal to the Likud Central Committee next week that would bring forward the primaries – a move expected to exclude most of his rivals from the leadership race and potentially leave him as party head until 2023.

“I don’t usually take part in puppet shows. I wish Netanyahu luck, as I wish all the contenders in this show,” Sa’ar wrote on his Twitter account, in response to a question from Amit Segal, Channel 2 TV News’ correspondent.

At the same time, Finance Minister Kahlon did not rule out the possibility of running with Sa’ar in the next election, as part of a new political partnership.

In a radio interview, Kahlon said that “if a new and interesting framework comes up, I’ll view it positively.” Kahlon added that he wouldn’t run in a joint list with Netanyahu, a move the premier has reportedly been trying to foster in recent months.

“I did not leave Likud in order to return,” Kahlon said, noting that he and Sa’ar regularly discuss these issues. “Sa’ar is a good friend. I respect him – he has the qualities of a leader and I hope that works out for him. Sa’ar is still part of Likud, which he loves,” added Kahlon.

Unless Netanyahu chooses to dissolve the government earlier, the next Knesset election is scheduled for 2019.