Right-wing Lawmakers, ex-Gantz Allies Join Forces With Netanyahu Rival Gideon Sa'ar

Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Handel, who have worked for the prime minster, announce they will join Sa'ar's new party: 'Being a rightist doesn't mean being a Bibi-ist'

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Zvi Hauser (R) and Yoaz Handel of the Derech Eretz faction  at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 2019.
Zvi Hauser (R) and Yoaz Handel of the Derech Eretz faction at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 2019. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Handel of the Derech Eretz faction said Wednesday that they are joining forces with Gideon Sa'ar, pledging to support his candidacy for the premiership.

In a press conference, Hauser and Handel said that Netanyahu has wrought two years of political chaos on the country. "We deserve...a right-wing leadership whose self-identification is love of the country and not hatred of the other. Likud has been confused over the past few years. Gideon isn't."

Why Israel’s anti-Bibi left is so lost – and chasing yet another general as its Messiah. LISTENCredit: Haaretz

On Tuesday, Sa'ar announced that he is leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party and intends to establish a new one ahead of a possible election campaign, which would be Israel's fourth in roughly two years.

The veteran Likud lawmaker's announcement came a few days after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself in a preliminary vote.

Sa'ar has garnered significant support among Likud voters and challenged Netanyahu's Likud leadership last year in a party primary. He plans to form a center-right party while trying to convince former and current lawmakers, as well as other prominent figures who have not yet entered politics, to join his roster.

"Gideon is displaying responsible and unifying leadership. Being right wing doesn’t mean being a Bibi-ist," Handel said.

Handel and Hauser's decisions to team up with Sa'ar did not come as a surprise. Zvi Hauser served as a government secretary under Netanyahu and Handel served as director of communications and public diplomacy at the Prime Minister's Office. Both ran on the Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan slate and broke with him after Gantz decided to form a unity government with Netanyahu following the March 2 election.

Handel, Hauser and Sa'ar all belong to the ideological right, with the shared goal of attracting the moderate religious vote as well as the secular vote.

Potential candidates to join Sa'ar's new party are lawmakers Yifat Shasha-Biton of Likud and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

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