Poll: Netanyahu's Biggest Likud Rival Gideon Sa'ar Gets Boost in Wake of Scandals

In Channel 10 poll, 23 percent named Sa'ar when asked which right-wing politician should replace Netanyahu if he is forced to vacate his seat; 66 percent believe Netanyahu should resign if indicted

Gideon Sa'ar in Acre, April 2017
Gil Eliahu

Gideon Sa'ar, the former Likud interior minister who recently returned to politics after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, should be the right-wing politician to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the latter is forced to resign amid the corruption scandals he is currently facing, a Channel 10 poll found Sunday. Sa'ar is considered Netanyahu's biggest rival from among the Likud's ranks. Trailing behind Sa'ar is Habayit Hayehudi leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett with 11 percent, followed by Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman with 9 percent.

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The poll also found that 51 percent of respondents don't believe Netanyahu's version of events, while 27 percent believe the premier. Sixty-six percent believe Netanyahu should resign if indicted, as opposed to 21 percent who say he should remain at his post.

According to the poll, if the elections were to be held today, the Likud party would win 27 seats, the Zionist Union would get 22, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid would stand at 18, the Joint Arab List would win 11, and Habayit Hayehudi would win 9. Yisrael Beiteinu would get 8 seats, Kulanu and United Torah Judaism win 7 each, Shas would g6 and Meretz would win 5.  

Sa'ar, who announced his return to politics last April, said in November 2014 that he could not advance under Netanyahu and declared a “time-out” from politics, adding that he wanted to spend more time with his wife, news anchor Geula Even Sa'ar, and their young son. Sa’ar at the time was No. 2 in Likud behind Netanyahu.

Likud sources said after his announcement that Sa’ar’s timing is probably based on expectations that Israel will hold an early election in the next few months, rather than in two years when the current Knesset’s term expires.

Since his departure from politics two and a half years ago, Sa’ar has pledged to return and promote change. Throughout his hiatus, he has stayed in close touch with the party rank and file.

He has also published articles setting forth his political views; in January, when Donald Trump became U.S. president, Sa’ar called for a retreat from the two-state solution.