Netanyahu Should Quit, Says PM's Top Likud Challenger Gideon Sa'ar

Likud lawmaker says he believes he could form a government in the current Knesset, following Netanyahu's two failed attempts

Gideon Sa'ar speaks at the Likud branch in Hod Hasharon, November 25, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa'ar said on Tuesday that if he had been in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's place, he would have resigned from office, after the two failed attempts to form a government.

Sa'ar stressed that Netanyahu shouldn't resign because of his legal troubles, but due to his failure following two election rounds in the past year.

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"I think he should have taken responsibility, not because of the charges [against Netanyahu], but because the state is stuck. We are deadlocked," Sa'ar told Israel Radio.

Last week attorney general Avichai Mendelblit announced that Netanyahu will be indicted with bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases. On Monday Mendelblit announced that there were no legal grounds to force the resignation or leave-of-absence of Netanyahu as prime minister.

Gideon Sa'ar at Netanyahu's 'emergency rally' in Tel Aviv, November 19, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Two days after Mendelblit's announcement, Sa'ar on Saturday called for a Likud leadership primary and criticized Netanyahu's attack on the attorney general and the prosecution, calling the indictment "an attempted coup."

Sa'ar on Tuesday also said that he would not attend a rally in support of Netanyahu and against the legal system, to take place in Tel Aviv the same night. The rally "will not help the prime minister's chances in the legal battle he's waging."

Sa'ar is pushing for the leadership primary to take place in the next two weeks, in an attempt to avoid the dissolution of Knesset. Sa'ar said he believes he would be able to garner the support of 61 lawmakers and form a coalition.

Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein held a meeting Tuesday morning, following which they issued a joint statement that "We call for unity within Likud. We must quell the flames, avoid splits and internal fighting, and stand united against the challenges the country and the party are facing."  

In the letter sent to Likud Central Committee chairman on Sunday, Sa'ar urged that this "move has the power to prevent Israel's decline into unnecessary third elections, which Prime Minister Netanyahu himself described as letting the system go haywire."

Netanyahu and Central Committee Chairman Haim Katz agreed to hold a party leadership primary within six weeks, without regard to whether the primary election will be held before the Knesset is dissolved on December 11, if no lawmaker is able to form a government.