Israel Headed for Elections: Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon Launches Own Party

Gideon Sa'ar announces return to politics, says he'll run for a spot with Likud ■ Ministerial committee backs bill to dissolve Knesset

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressing the crowd at an INSS conference, January 2018.
\ Moti Milrod

A day after coalition heads announced their intention to dissolve the Knesset, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon declared Tuesday that he was launching his own party. 

Ya'alon did not name the party, but in the announcement he made on Twitter Ya'alon proclaimed that "This is our time to take responsibility."

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"The time has come for different leadership," he added. 

Ya'alon resigned as defense minister and from the Knesset in 2016. He had served as a Likud member of parliament since 2009. 

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu's rival Gideon Sa'ar said he will run for Likud Knesset seat in next elections.

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The former Likud cabinet member told Reshet Bet radio that he has wide support within the party and felt hurt Netanyahu has marked him as an enemy.

Sa’ar, who resigned from the Knesset in 2014, stated in the interview: "Yes, for anyone who still had doubts, I am announcing that I will run for a spot on the Likud slate.”

“I will ask for the confidence of my colleagues in the movement to return and represent them, and I believe that my success in the primaries would also help Likud succeed in the [Knesset] elections. I don't think we are facing easy elections," he added.

Sa’ar, who served as education minister and later as interior ministe, has recently been in the spotlight in connection with proposed legislation that has been dubbed the Sa’ar Law.

Gideon Sa'ar making a speech at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
Meged Gozani

The bill would obligate President Reuven Rivlin to call on the leader of a party to serve as prime minister and form the next government following elections.

The bill was motivated by concern that Rivlin might nominate Sa'ar rather than the party head to form the next government if Likud emerges from the elections as the leading party.

In October, Netanyahu alleged that Sa'ar was conspiring to replace him as prime minister.

Sa'ar was asked in his radio interview if he was hurt by Netanyahu's attitude toward him and the prime minister's implication that Sa'ar would seek to have him removed from office. Sa'ar responded: "I was hurt, but that's not important at the moment. What’s important to me now is a Likud victory in the election. People need to know how to take the high ground."

In another development, Sa'ar's wife, Geula Even-Sa’ar, who anchors the main evening television news broadcast on Kan Channel 11 public television, announced at the end of Monday’s broadcast that she would be stepping down as anchor. Her announcement came just hours after Netanyahu revealed that the country would be going to the polls on April 9.

When she joined the public broadcaster, it was understood that she would step down if her husband took concrete steps to return to politics.

Also Tuesday, a bill that would dissolve the Knesset ahead of elections received the backing of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Tuesday.

In an expedited procedure, the legislation is slated to come before the Knesset.

Despite the expected passage of the bill to dissolve the Israeli parliament, the coalition and opposition are still attempting to pass other legislation during the current Knesset term.

Among such items is a bill that would make it criminal to purchase prostitution services, legislation that has broad support in the Knesset.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the coalition heads unanimously agreed to hold elections on April 9, adding that he wants the current coalition to form the nucleus of the next government. The prime minister called on Israeli voters to give the government a clear mandate to continue governing on its current path.

Nirit Anderman contributed to this report.