Netanyahu Rival Sa'ar: If I Win Likud Primary, I'll Push to Make Bibi Israeli President

Ahead of Thursday's leadership primary, Gideon Sa'ar, says he'd like to see the prime minister in the largely ceremonial role

Gideon Sa'ar at an event for Likud activists on December 23, 2019.
Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as leader of the Likud party, said on Monday that if he defeats Netanyahu in the party’s leadership race, he would work to have him appointed as Israel’s president.

At a gathering in Netanya, Sa’ar said the move would enable the prime minister “to continue to contribute to the standing of the State of Israel around the world.”

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The current president, Reuven Rivlin, was elected in 2014. The position of president is largely ceremonial. The president is elected by secret ballot by the Knesset for a term of seven years.

On Monday, the Likud’s tribunal of nine judges decided that the party would not hold a new election among Likud members for the party’s full slate for the Knesset election on March 2, confirming a decision by the Likud central committee.

Monday’s ruling reversed an earlier decision by the party tribunal last week that ordered the party to hold primaries not only for party leader, but also for the Knesset slate. The primary election for the leadership race between Netanyahu and Sa’ar will be held on Thursday.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has pushed for a cancellation of the party’s primary for the Knesset slate to ensure that those placed relatively low on the list remain in their current slots, and in the process to encourage them not to defect to other parties. The Likud central committee accepted the prime minister’s stance about two weeks ago by a large margin, but it was then appealed to the party tribunal.