Gideon Sa’ar: Blue and White wants Netanyahu to win

Sa’ar was greeted at the rally with chants of activists calling him the next prime minister and “Gideon, king of Israel.” Sa’ar treated Netanyahu respectfully, but did not hold back criticism.

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar addresses the crowd at a rally for his campaign for the Likud leadership, December 16, 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar addresses the crowd at a rally for his campaign for the Likud leadership, December 16, 2019
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
More than a thousand people attended the largest rally in a generation on Monday – of Likud members who support an alternative to Netanyahu in the Likud – at an event in Or Yehuda hosted by MK Gideon Sa’ar, his challenger in the December 26 primary.
Sa’ar was greeted at the rally with chants of activists calling him the next prime minister and “Gideon, king of Israel.” Sa’ar treated Netanyahu respectfully, but did not hold back criticism.
“Likud members must admit that a prime minister who is respected and admired is stuck, and that there is no chance he will be able to form a government after the March 2 election,” he said. “If we don’t bring about change, we are very close to a left-wing government that will endanger the Land of Israel.”
Sa’ar received only a tepid response from the crowd when he praised Netanyahu’s accomplishments. He said he did not regret his years serving the prime minister as an aide, MK and minister, but accused him of unjustifiably pursuing him in recent years.
“The decision is simple: Voting for me will guarantee the Likud remaining in power and the forming of a government led by us,” he said. “Blue and White is praying – or perhaps hoping is a more appropriate word for them – that Netanyahu wins. Choosing Netanyahu is choosing the next head of the opposition.”
Making note of criticism of him and his family by Netanyahu’s associates and son Yair, Sa’ar said he had faced ugly attacks from inside his own political home, but would not respond with his own attacks. He pleaded with the activists to do the same and remain positive.
Noting attempts by the Likud administration to remove his potential supporters from the voting rolls, Sa’ar said there were 120,000 Likud members “before people started playing with the books.”
Sources close to Sa’ar said that Netanyahu pressured key Likud activists not to attend the rally. Sa’ar said there were those who did not come because of their personal interests but, citing a popular song, said that “those who believe do not fear.”
The event was attended by the powerful head of the Likud central committee MK Haim Katz, MKs Yoav Kisch, Sharren Haskel, Michal Shir and Eti Atiah, and former MKs Yehudah Glick, David Mena, Yechiel Hazan, Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Nurit Koren.
The loudest applause came when Sa’ar thanked his wife, KAN anchorwoman Geula Even-Sa’ar, who suspended herself from her work in order to help his campaign.
Kisch, who is Sa’ar’s campaign manager, introduced him as, “the only man who can lead the Likud to power in the next electio,” adding that history was about to be made in the primary.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has many accomplishments and has led the Likud for nearly 20 years, but he failed to form a government twice,” Shir said at the rally. “The Likud has not been in power for two terms, and we can no longer delude ourselves.”
Likud members ate jelly doughnuts and arrived through a lobby full of cigarette smoke at the event.
Netanyahu released a video shortly after Sa’ar’s rally ended. In the video, he attacked Blue and White and did not mention Sa’ar by name.
“I am going from rally to rally, and hundreds of people are arriving spontaneously,” Netanyahu said. “It is amazing to see the enthusiasm.”