Likud leadership contender Gideon Sa’ar criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to remain in office despite his inability to form a government, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that will be published in full on Friday.
Sa’ar said he would have voted for a government under the prime minister’s leadership despite the corruption indictments against him, had Netanyahu been able to build a coalition, because he would have proven he had the support of the people. But because of Netanyahu’s inability to form a government, Sa’ar cannot understand why the Likud leader continues clinging to power.
“It is quite clear he unfortunately cannot form a government and won’t be able to in the foreseeable future,” Sa’ar said in the interview, which was conducted in English. “I don’t fully understand. If there is no practical horizon to form a government, I don’t know what he gets from what he is doing.”
Questioning Netanyahu’s behavior, he asked: “What’s the horizon? Where is the hope? You can’t drag the country to elections forever.”
Sa’ar also criticized Netanyahu for not changing the legal system during his many years as prime minister, and now complaining that it has harmed him personally.
“The prime minister has been in power for more than 10 years consecutively, and nothing was done,” he said. “A ruling party should work to change the reality according to its policies, using all practical tools it has. Instead of doing that, we are going to demonstrations against the executive branch that we control.”
Sa’ar has been attempting to initiate a snap leadership primary in his Likud Party ahead of the December 11 deadline to form a government and to prevent a third election in under a year. His hope was that he could defeat Netanyahu, and then form a broad national-unity government encompassing Blue and White, all the parties in the Likud’s right wing-religious bloc.
So far, Netanyahu and the head of the Likud central committee, MK Haim Katz, have not responded to his request to hold the primary by December 11, and the director-general of the Likud is abroad.
“Holding a snap primary is only a matter of political will,” he said. “We are still in the last moments when it is still possible, and if we do not end up doing it, it would be catastrophic to the Israeli economy, society and political stability. I think it is possible to hold a primary within two weeks, but the time is passing. If we don’t initiate the process this week, it will be impossible.”
Sa’ar said not holding a snap primary “is not a punishment for me. It’s a punishment for Israel and its citizens,” because it would ensure six more months of divisiveness and a paralyzed economy.
Speaking before Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein began his mediation between the Likud and Blue and White, Sa’ar said the chances of stopping a third election by forming a unity government instead of by holding a Likud primary are very low.
“If a unity government can be formed within 14 days, then primaries will not be necessary anymore,” he said. “Personally, I think chances for that will be close to zero. Jews believe in miracles, but we cannot count on miracles.”
See the full interview in Friday’s Jerusalem Post.