Gideon Sa'ar (Center) says goodbye to the Knesset, November 3, 2014. .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud activists Thursday at the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters that the media is conspiring to topple him and bring the Left to power.
Netanyahu has attacked the press in past elections, which has helped him boost his support within his political base on the Right. The event where he spoke was a campaign rally ahead of the December 31 Likud primary.
“Israeli citizens understand there is a public campaign in the press, almost unprecedented in size and strength, to support and advance any politician or party that opposes a Likud-led government under me,” Netanyahu said.
“The campaign’s clear goal is to bring the Left to power and give the Left the right to make key decisions about Israeli security.”
Netanyahu said the Likud members who will participate in the party primary understand that the March 17 election is about only one question – who will lead the country: The Left or “a wide and strong Likud government under me.”
The prime minister spoke after receiving two political boosts. The first came late Wednesday night when it became apparent that his proposal to advance the primary by a week passed overwhelmingly in a secret-ballot vote in the central committee.
The second came Thursday afternoon, when former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that he would not challenge Netanyahu for the Likud leadership. Sa’ar noted the central committee’s decision in his Facebook post about his choice not to run.
Over the last few days I received many touching overtures from friends in the Likud and citizens who called on me to return from my timeout from politics that I declared three months ago, and run for leader of the Likud,” Sa’ar said. “I listened to everyone, studied a lot, sought advice, and considered the issue seriously. Under the circumstances that were created and after much consideration I decided not to run for leader of the Likud at this time.”
Netanyahu’s proposal to bring forward the primary passed by a vote of 1,567 to 835, indicating that he maintains a strong grip over the party ahead of the Likud leadership race.
According to the proposal, on December 31, the Likud will elect its leader and its Knesset list, which will include two slots that will be reserved for the leader to select candidates who will not have to run in the primary.
“I thank Likud members for their clear and overwhelming support,” Netanyahu said. “This is an important step toward my victory in the upcoming general election as leader of the Likud.”
Netanyahu won in all Likud polling stations across the country, including in Ariel, which is a stronghold of his Likud rival Moshe Feiglin. The results were challenged unsuccessfully in the Tel Aviv District Court.