Gideon Sa'ar quits Likud, slams Netanyahu, announces new party

Sa'ar leaves Likud, warning party serves Netanyahu's criminal trial

MK Gideon Sa'ar announces that he is leaving the Likud Party (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Gideon Sa'ar announces that he is leaving the Likud Party
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a move that could shake up the upcoming election, Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar will be leaving Likud and forming a new party that he will use to run for prime minister, he announced in a speech to the public on social media on Tuesday night.
Sa’ar said he could no longer remain in the same party as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Likud has changed and became a tool serving the personal interests of its leader, including in his criminal trial,” Sa’ar said. “I can no longer support the government under Netanyahu and I can no longer be a member of Likud under his leadership. I say with regret, as someone who saw him as the right leader to lead the country and served in senior roles in his governments, Israel needs unity and stability now and Netanyahu cannot provide either one.”
Sa’ar said he was prepared that his candidacy could result in Netanyahu deciding that the election should not happen yet. But he said that regardless, on Wednesday morning, he will quit the Knesset.
Derech Eretz MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser will join the as-yet-unnamed party on Wednesday. Likud MKs Sharren Haskel and Michal Shir are considered very likely to follow, but will not quit the Knesset yet.
The new political framework will aim to bring together various groups in the statesmanlike Right and will challenge both Netanyahu and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett.
Sa’ar had been working on the new party as an option for months, but he only decided to go through with it a week ago.
In December 2019, Sa’ar challenged Netanyahu in a Likud leadership primary. Netanyahu beat him 72.5% to 27.5%. He said the events of the year since then had made him realize a change in leadership is needed.
For instance, he said the government failed in its handling of the coronavirus. Sa’ar criticized Netanyahu’s decision to institute an evening lockdown on Tuesday morning, more than 12 hours before his announcement.
“An evening lockdown is a useless edict,” Sa’ar tweeted.
The first reaction of Netanyahu to the move was his spokesman sending out a list of links to Sa’ar saying the Likud was his political home and he would never leave, including a quote on TV in May after Netanyahu did not appoint him a minister.
“Sa’ar is leaving because he was trounced in the primary and internal polls in Likud over the last few days found that he would not make the party’s top 10,” Netanyahu’s spokesman said. “Sa’ar decided to abandon the Right, hook up with [opposition leader Yair] Lapid and join the long list of politicians who abandoned the Likud and then completely collapsed politically.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who revealed Sa’ar’s departure on 103 Radio, said there would be many splits ahead of the next election.
“When Gideon Sa’ar attacks Netanyahu twice in one week, it is clear he won’t run with the Likud, due to all of his lack of love for Netanyahu,” Liberman said. “Gideon Sa’ar has already made a decision.”
Among those rumored to join Sa’ar are Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.
For Likud MKs to run in an existing party, they would have to quit the current Knesset, but they would not have to resign if they run with a new party.
The next candidates on the Likud list are Nissim Vaturi, who is a political adviser to MK David Bitan, and Shevah Stern, who was chosen for a slot on the list reserved for a candidate from Judea and Samaria.
“If I have to buy a suit, I will,” Stern said. “I didn’t buy one for my son’s wedding last week.”