Benjamin Netanyahu with Gideon Sa'ar..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former number two in his Likud party, Gideon Sa'ar, expressed hope Tuesday that Netanyahu will emerge unscathed from the three criminal investigations that are threatening his political future.
Netanyahu is being investigated for accepting gifts from international millionaires and conspiring to harm a newspaper and his confidant David Shimron is being probed for his role in the purchasing of German naval vessels.
Polls show that Likud voters and activists prefer Sa'ar to replace Netanyahu if he steps down and an election would be held.
"It pains me as an Israeli citizen to see what is happening," Sa'ar said at the Besheva newspaper's Jerusalem Conference at the capital's Crown Plaza Hotel. "I think it pains every Israeli citizen that a prime minister is being investigated, and it hurts me a little more, because I worked with Netanyahu."
Sa'ar, who announced in September 2014 that he was taking a break from politics, said he would return but asked for patience. He dismissed speculation that he could form a new party to challenge Netanyahu.
"I know the way back, and I will do it at the right time," he said. "There is no need for headlines in the interim period. I intend to return to public life, and I'll do it in my party, the Likud."
Sa'ar expressed right-wing views, calling for applying sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and speaking against the creation of a Palestinian state. He advised Netanyahu and new US president Donald Trump not to push for a two-state solution.
"When the region is coming apart, forming an Arab terror state that cannot function should be taken off the table," he said, warning Netanyahu that even talking about a "state minus" would invite pressure on Israel from the entire world.
Sa'ar said Trump has potential to take unconventional steps on issues that impact Israel.
"Every visit is important but this is especially important because the eight years of Obama had a wide impact not just on Israel but also on the region," he said.