Benjamin Netanyahu slams Gideon Sa’ar right before Likud primary

A source close to Netanyahu said the prime minister is working to ensure Sa’ar does not come in first place in the primaries.

Gideon Sa'ar (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Gideon Sa'ar (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar in the first episode of the “Likud TV” webcast Sunday night, less than two days before the Likud primary.
“More than two or three people in the Likud came to me,” Netanyahu recounted, “and said ‘Gideon came to me and said look, this is what I’m planning. After the elections, they won’t appoint Netanyahu to form the government, because he’s in a [pre-indictment] hearing, so the responsibility has to go to someone else in the Likud, and I ask for your support.”
“I didn’t make this up,” Netanyahu added. “I don’t think this trick will work…It’s not the will of the voters. We’ll see in the primaries whether the will of the voters will prevail.”
A source close to Netanyahu said the prime minister is working to ensure Sa’ar does win first place in the primaries.
Sa’ar responded: “Unfortunately, two days before the primaries, the prime minister chose to recycle the false tale he first told several months ago. The goal is transparent: to hurt me in the primaries. Likud members are smart and know that this is baseless. On the eve of a critical election for the Likud and the country, I will behave like a responsible adult: I will not be dragged into an internal war in our home.”
Earlier, Netanyahu threw his support behind two candidates in Tuesday’s Likud primary: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the premier’s former chief of staff David Sharan, a suspect in Case 3000, the so-called “submarines affair.” The case involves allegations that Israeli officials accepted bribes to ensure that Israel would buy German submarines. Police recommended that Sharan be indicted on bribery and fraud charges.
Netanyahu said on Sunday that he does not plan to release a list of recommended candidates, confirming a Jerusalem Post report in response to an article in Sunday’s Yisrael Hayom that claimed his preferred list includes MK Amir Ohana, who is best known for leading the special committee to legislate the Nation-State Law; Culture Minister Miri Regev; Tourism Minister Yariv Levin; Transportation Minister Israel Katz; and Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.
“My recommendations list for the primary includes all current Likud MKs,” Netanyahu said. “They are all worthy... I trust Likud members that they will choose the most appropriate people out of this excellent selection.”
However, when asked, Netanyahu’s spokesman said the prime minister supports Edelstein and Sharan, but said there was no one else whose name the Likud leader would specify.
Netanyahu said Edelstein is “a worthy Knesset speaker,” and that Sharan is “the best candidate in the Tel Aviv district.”
The Tel Aviv spot is in the 29th place on the Likud list, giving the candidates a realistic shot to get into the Knesset.
Former Netanyahu aide Natan Eshel, who remains close with the prime minister, has made calls to top Likud activists in Tel Aviv, encouraging them to vote for Sharan, Channel 12 reported.
Eshel was forced to resign from his position as bureau chief of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012, after he was caught sexually harassing another Netanyahu aide, including taking photos up her skirt. He is forbidden from working in government jobs in the future.
Meanwhile, the New Likudniks, a group seeking to moderate the party, released its list of recommended candidates, which includes Edelstein, Katz, Steinitz, MKs Yehudah Glick, Sharren Haskel and Nurit Koren, as well as ministers Gila Gamliel and Tzachi Hanegbi. They also recommend former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and lobbyist and longtime Likud activist Keren Barak.
The group estimates that they have 7,000 eligible voting Likud members, but others in the party have said the real number is a fraction of that figure.
The list also includes Nir Hirshman, one of the New Likudnik’s leaders, who had previously been banned from running by the Likud’s Elections Committee, claiming that he was undermining the party. However, the Likud’s court overturned that decision on Friday. Five other New Likudniks candidates are still not allowed to run.