Former interior minister Gideon Sa'ar..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar will officially announce that he is set to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership and for prime minister Wednesday, Likud activists said Sunday.
Sa’ar announced his retirement from politics with great fanfare three months ago.
Likud activists claimed he would come back, because he realizes that he has an opportunity to defeat Netanyahu and become prime minister.
Ashkelon Likud activist Eli Cornfeld said he and other Sa’ar supporters have already drafted the 500 signatures of Likud central committee members endorsing his candidacy that are needed to run.
“Gideon is much more fit to be prime minister than Bibi,” Cornfeld said. “He cares about Israel. He came from the people, and the Likud loves him.
But Bibi will resort to any political trick in order to stop him.”
It was unclear, however, on Sunday night how much Cornfeld and the other activists spoke for Sa’ar and how much their preparations for his prospective candidacy were mere wishful thinking.
Sa’ar is expected to receive an in-depth survey of the Likud members’ opinions about his potential candidacy as early as Monday night. A Panels Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post and Ma’ariv Sof Hashavua already indicated the public prefers Sa’ar to Netanyahu.
The Likud central committee is timetabled to convene Tuesday night in Ariel to approve advancing the Likud leadership race from January 6, to a week or two before.
The committee is expected to decide how the party will select its candidates for the next Knesset.
Former Labor Party interior minister Ophir Pines-Paz, who retired from politics, said he hopes Sa’ar will choose to run.
The Labor Party appeared to be making progress Sunday toward a deal with former justice minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party that would reserve three realistic slots on the Labor list for Livni, Amir Peretz and Amram Mitzna.
Hatnua MKs Meir Sheetrit, David Tsur and Elazar Stern would not be given reserved slots. Tsur and Stern both said Sunday that they were examining other options for their political futures. But Sheetrit said he would be happy to go to Labor, as well as other possibilities.
President Reuven Rivlin said he hoped Israel would return to having two central voting blocs that would make it easier to govern and make difficult decisions. Speaking at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv, Rivlin expressed concern about disillusioned voters refraining from casting ballots in the March 17 race.
“I hope that what happened before won’t happen this time, with regard to the voter turnout,” he said. “I am afraid the public will not get out to vote, because they have lost faith. I hope everyone will vote.”