Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced Tuesday that he is backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Likud party’s leadership race, two days before a vote by party members.
“After weighing all the considerations, I reached the conclusion that Prime Minister Netanyahu is the man most suited to continue leading Likud and the country,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.
Nevertheless, he added, lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s decision to challenge Netanyahu for the party’s leadership is “a worthy one that preserves democracy in the party. In contrast to what some others are saying, I’m convinced that this strengthens Likud.”
Erdan was one of the few Likud members who stalled on expressing support for Netanyahu or Sa'ar in Thursday’s primary. He had reportedly considered either backing Sa’ar or not backing anyone.
According to media reports, Erdan met last week with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein – who still hasn’t thrown his support to either candidate – to coordinate their positions. Edelstein reportedly told him that he doesn’t plan to publicly back either candidate.
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.
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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.
Sa’ar, who said that if he defeats Netanyahu, 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."