Netanyahu accuses former Likud Minister Sa’ar of putsch conspiracy

"This [plot] is destined to fail because the public will not let such a thing happen," Netanyahu said.

Benjamin Netanyahu with Gideon Sa'ar. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu with Gideon Sa'ar.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused his previous number two in the Likud, former minister Gideon Sa’ar, on Wednesday of conspiring to overthrow him after the 2019 Knesset election.
Speaking at his birthday party at the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu confirmed an Israel Hayom report that he is concerned that after the election, President Reuven Rivlin would ask a different Likud MK to form the government.
“For a number of weeks, I know that a former minister in the Likud is speaking to officials in the coalition and working on a maneuver to undermine me,” Netanyahu said. “I would bring the Likud to a sweeping victory, and after the election, they will make sure I won’t be prime minister, despite the will of Likud voters, of the public, despite democracy.”
Netanyahu, who has been traveling all over the country campaigning for the Likud’s municipal candidates, said an attempt to prevent him from remaining prime minister would not succeed since he has more support now than ever, since he entered politics over 30 years ago.
“It is inevitably destined to fail, because the public won’t let it happen,” he said. “But it did reveal a loophole in the law, and we will consider what to do about it.”
Coalition chairman David Amsalem, who is close to Netanyahu, drafted a bill intended to limit the discretion of the president, who currently can ask any MK to form a government. Amsalem said he merely wanted to make law what has been a precedent, that the opportunity to build a coalition is granted to a party leader with the best chance to form a government and with the most recommendations from other party leaders.
The Israel Hayom report said a Likud figure who is considered very close to Rivlin spoke about the idea with two other Likud MKs in recent days, asking for their support. Sa’ar, who was Rivlin’s campaign manager, when he was elected president, vigorously denied the report.
“It is a hallucination,” Sa’ar wrote on Twitter. “There is no truth to what has been published. They are completely ridiculous. It bothers me that there are those who tell the prime minister such foolishness.”
The newspaper reported that Netanyahu was going to immediately initiate an early election last week, when the Knesset returned from its extended summer and holiday recess. He chose instead to pass the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill and keep the current Knesset intact due to his fears of a Rivlin-Sa’ar conspiracy. The President’s Residence ridiculed the report in an official statement, and suggested Netanyahu required a psychiatrist.
“We had trouble finding real information in the report other than an in-depth description of paranoia that is not based on any actual step or ever thought that is happening in reality,” the statement said. “Dealing with such phenomena should be left to professionals who are not spokespeople.”
Netanyahu’s associates said in response that “what was published in Israel Hayom was not born at the President’s Residence but by a former senior Likud official who spoke about it with multiple coalition partners.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said she was not surprised that “after the Arabs, the courts, the police, bereaved families and the IDF chief of staff, it is now the president’s turn to be targeted.”
Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel added that he expects the Likud’s next legislation to “declare Netanyahu Caesar, devote media outlets to praising his name and invest all of our national resources in ensuring that he will live forever.”
The Knesset voted 40-26 Wednesday to reject a bill proposed by Zionist Union MK Revital Swid that would prevent a candidate who is the subject of a criminal investigation from forming a government. Ushers went up the Knesset rostrum to confiscate Swid’s copy of Israel Hayom when she used it as a prop during her speech.
“Elections give the winner legitimacy,” Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said when explaining the coalition’s opposition to the bill. “This bill would go against the will of the voters.”