Netanyahu implies Gideon Sa’ar will withdraw from West Bank

Potential Likud leadership rival Sa’ar attacks back, calls for application of Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish settlements.

Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Gideon Sa'ar (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Gideon Sa'ar (R)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that the media supports his opponents because it wants Israel to retreat to pre-1967 lines, in his speech at a conference held by the Makor Rishon newspaper on Sunday.
Netanyahu hinted that his rival in Likud, MK Gideon Sa’ar, enjoys positive media coverage, because he will make concessions in the West Bank.
“The dominant media in Israel… has an incomprehensible and unchanging fantasy that we will get peace by being weaker and making concessions,” Netanyahu said. “They know that what is preventing that from happening is my ability to block the pressures and enlist the US to our side. Therefore, their goal is to bring me down.”
“The Left knows that if they topple me, they will topple the Right,” he added.
In an apparent reference to Sa’ar, Netanyahu asked: “Who does the left-wing media… praise and protect?”
“In the end, he will pay the bill and bring [the Left] the goods. The goods are Judea and Samaria” – Biblical names for the West Bank – “That is a simple rule that has been proven in the past,” Netanyahu said.
Sa’ar, who has enacted pro-settlement policies such as promoting the establishment of a university in Ariel, took to Twitter to respond, calling to annex all settlements.
“The future of Judea and Samaria must be ensured through acts and not talk: Stop the Palestinian takeover of Area C, which has continued undisturbed for years. Evacuate Khan al-Ahmar after countless postponements. Apply Israeli sovereignty to all of our settlement territory, as the Likud central committee decided two years ago,” Sa’ar wrote.
Sa’ar has sought a leadership primary in the Likud ahead of the next election, which could take place as early as December 22 if the Knesset does not support a candidate for prime minister by Wednesday at midnight.
Earlier in the day, Sa’ar spoke out against direct elections for the prime minister, a plan that Netanyahu said he is eyeing last week. Holding a direct election for prime minister instead of a Knesset election would likely foil Sa’ar’s plan to run against Netanyahu in a primary.
“We should not change the system of government hastily to resolve a momentary political situation,” Sa’ar said on KAN Bet. “It doesn’t solve the problem; you need a majority in the Knesset in the end… Our problem today is that we lost the majority in the Knesset.
“Unfortunately, as long as Netanyahu will continue to lead the Likud we will not have a majority in the Knesset,” he added.
Netanyahu has said he will consider a proposal for direct elections by Likud MK Shlomo Karhi, which solves the problem of a lack of a majority by giving the winning candidate’s an extra 10% of the Knesset seats, bringing the total number of seats up to 132. The bill would not be a temporary fix for now alone; rather, direct elections would kick in after multiple failed attempts at building a government, like we saw this year.
However, most of the Knesset opposes direct elections at this point, and they are unlikely to be put into place.