Edelstein announces he will challenge Netanyahu over Likud

Though Edelstein already announced his intentions, he told it to the cameras for the first time on Monday night.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seen speaking at a Clalit vaccination center in Zarzir, on February 9, 2021. (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seen speaking at a Clalit vaccination center in Zarzir, on February 9, 2021.
(photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s No. 2 in Likud, Yuli Edelstein, officially announced in an interview with Channel 12 on Monday evening that he will run against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership whenever a primary will be held.

Edelstein already told The Jerusalem Post in June that he was ready to challenge Netanyahu. But this was the first time he said it before the cameras.

No date has been set for the next Likud primary, and most of the candidates want to wait to set a date until after the Knesset votes on bills aimed at preventing Netanyahu from running again. But Edelstein said he wanted the race held “as soon as possible.”

“We will always stay in the opposition with Netanyahu,” Edelstein said. “Netanyahu has already tried four times, how can we succeed with him the fifth time? With Netanyahu we will never return to power.”

Edelstein placed himself politically to Netanyahu’s Right, noting that he was part of the group of Likud rebels that opposed withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, while Netanyahu voted in favor of the disengagement.

Netanyahu’s spokesman responded that the Likud is a democratic party and that candidates are free to challenge the former prime minister. He noted that less than two years ago, a primary was held in which Netanyahu beat MK Gideon Sa’ar 72.5% to 27.5%.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein seen during the vaccination of the two million recipients, in Ramla, January 14, 2021.  (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein seen during the vaccination of the two million recipients, in Ramla, January 14, 2021. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Justice Minister Sa’ar is now part of the coalition and head of the New Hope Party.

Edelstein, a former health minister and Knesset speaker, has acknowledged that it would be difficult to defeat Netanyahu. But he does not believe he would lose anything by running. He does not believe Netanyahu would willingly leave his post.

He and other top figures in Likud have expressed outrage that Netanyahu did not publicly offer a rotation as prime minister to a candidate in Likud, which he did for leaders of other parties: New Hope’s Sa’ar, Yamina leader and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Blue and White chairman and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Tal Spungin contributed to this report.