Netanyahu calls off Likud leadership primary

However, the Likud central committee will hold a vote to reaffirm its confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

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October 6, 2019 03:54
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Boc

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia September 12, 2019.. (photo credit: REUTERS/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV)

Likud will not be holding a snap leadership primary, the party announced Saturday night.

However, the Likud central committee will hold a vote to reaffirm its confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

“The putsch is dead,” a source close to Netanyahu said on Saturday night.

The move is part of Netanyahu’s response to Blue and White, which said repeatedly throughout the election campaign that it would like to be in a coalition with Likud, if led by someone other than Netanyahu. The faction has maintained this position in coalition negotiations thus far.

Thus, Netanyahu took steps in recent days to ensure that if he and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz fail to form a government in the coming weeks and the decision is thrown to the whole Knesset, no one else from Likud could obtain the support of 61 MKs to build a coalition.

With Blue and White continuing to refuse to be in a coalition with Netanyahu, and the prime minister insisting on representing the full 55-seat bloc of right-wing parties and not just Likud, coalition negotiations remain at a stalemate and the parties have no meetings planned for the coming days.

The Likud resolution will say “Netanyahu is the Likud’s candidate prime minister for the entirety of the 22nd Knesset’s term,” and, “as such... Likud will only be part of a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, whether for the entire term or part of it in a rotation,” a party spokesman said on Friday.

The change of plans came after several senior members of Likud, including central committee chairman MK Haim Katz opposed Netanyahu’s intention to hold a leadership primary. On Saturday night, MK David Bitan, who is close to Netanyahu, said the prime minister “was given bad advice” to hold a primary.

Likud said Netanyahu was strongly considering a leadership vote on Thursday morning, and immediately after, Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar tweeted “I’m ready,” implying that he would run against the prime minister.

Later Thursday, when Netanyahu started to lean away from a primary, his associates said they were pleased to have stopped a “coup” in the party. Some pointed out that the Likud leader was able to draw his adversary Sa’ar out, a step towards making him a pariah in the party, rather than a potential heir.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu hit opposition to his initiative to have all the parties in the 55-seat bloc sign a document committing to only supporting him in case the Knesset will have a chance to vote on a new prime minister after Netanyahu and Gantz fail to build a government.

“We don’t feel a need to sign things every week,” New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked told Israel Hayom on Saturday. “We are committed to the right-wing bloc. It’s reasonable to assume that when we reach the 21 days [that the Knesset has to get majority support for a premier or an election is called] we will sign, but we don’t need to commit and sign every day when things are obvious and we’re talking about them.”

Conversely, Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz tweeted on Friday: “In conversation with Netanyahu’s and Likud’s people, I announced that we support Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc and will continue to support it even in the 21 days after returning the mandate [to form a government]. We think that a broad unity government is the necessity of the times and believe it is certainly possible.”

Shas and UTJ’s leadership affirmed their commitment to Netanyahu last week.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman once again called on Netanyahu and Gantz to form a unity government.

“In light of the national emergency situation, the security threats in the North and South and places farther away, I once again call on Netanyahu and Gantz to show responsibility and leadership,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

Liberman called on the party leaders to put their egos aside and “stop the games, spin and wasting time.”


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