Likud Primary Election Offers a Choice Between Two Bad Options

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Likud rival Gideon Sa'ar.

Likud holds its leadership primary on Thursday. MK Gideon Sa’ar is taking on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The event is exceptional for Likud. The last time Netanyahu faced a challenger in a primary for the party leadership was 2014, when he defeated Danny Danon ahead of the election for the 20th Knesset.

We can be happy that Netanyahu’s leadership is being challenged, and perhaps a door has been opened for a change of personnel. Ten straight years of Netanyahu in power provide living testimony that power corrupts. The political deadlock is borne of the legal straits of the prime minister, who has become morally corrupt.

Still, the Likud leadership battle exposes how radical the party has been become ideologically. Likud supports annexing the occupied territories and creating the basis for an apartheid regime, while demonstrating contempt for international law.

Sa’ar’s campaign, which was launched in Khan al-Ahmar, made it clear that it is challenging Netanyahu from the right. A few days later, in response to statements by Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who had explained that “we are not evacuating Khan al-Ahmar out of fear of the International Criminal Court,” Sa’ar mocked him and said, “The Israeli government is afraid of The Hague.” Sa’ar added that he intends to fight for the future of the West Bank “with deeds and not with empty talk.”

In a week when the ICC prosecutor in The Hague said, on Netanyahu’s watch, that there is a basis for investigating Israel and that there is a basis for believing that Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinians, it is not clear where Sa’ar’s smugness stems from.

Likewise, it seems that Sa’ar is demonstrating the same contempt for the rule of law that became the norm under Netanyahu’s corrupt and corrupting regime. This contempt is also evident in his unrealistic declaration that if he wins he will work to get Netanyahu elected president in Knesset. The proposal is indicative of Sa’ar’s flaccidity as a leader: He has essentially no problem with the three indictments that Netanyahu is facing.

The proposal also shows that Sa’ar is at peace with Netanyahu’s leadership of the unrestrained campaign against the very idea of statesmanship, as seen in the attack on the law enforcement system and the press, and his incitement against the Israeli Arab minority and the left, which is now being turned against Sa’ar himself as well as his family, as Saar’s wife indicated.

Saar wants to make the national instigator president?

Thursday’s Likud leadership election offers a choice between two bad options, and they are a resounding reminder of how pathetically low Israel’s ruling party has sunk.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.