Sa'ar says he won't run in Likud leadership race

Asked on Twitter whether he would run in the early vote, which Netanyahu seeks to hold on February 23, Sa'ar wrote: "I do not act in puppet shows."

Gideon Sa'ar (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Gideon Sa'ar
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former minister Gideon Sa’ar, thought to be a likely contender for the Likud leadership, said on Thursday he would not run for the expected early primary, implying that it is rigged in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favor.
Asked on Twitter whether he would run in the early race, which Netanyahu seeks to hold on February 23, Sa’ar wrote, “I do not act in puppet shows.”
“I wish luck to Netanyahu in the contest, and to the rest of the actors in the show,” the former interior and education minister added.
Sa’ar, who was seen by many in the Likud as a potential eventual heir to Netanyahu, announced that he was taking a break from politics over a year ago, before the most recent election was called.
Since then, there have been sporadic rumors of a comeback, often sparked by public comments he has made on the political situation, like on Saturday night, when he criticized the government’s response to terrorism, tweeting: “When will the all-talk government start seriously taking care of those who enter [the country] illegally, and effectively close the [Palestinian] Authority’s territory?” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, also a former Likud minister, expressed hope for Sa’ar’s eventual comeback in an interview with Radio 103fm.
“I am in close contact with Gideon Sa’ar, and I would be very happy if we could run together in the next election for the Knesset,” he said.
On Tuesday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, also thought to be a possible challenger to Netanyahu, joined the Likud and called on supporters to do the same, but clarified that he will finish out his term as mayor – almost another three years – before considering running for a national position.
In recent months, Likud insiders said Barkat had already recruited thousands of Likud members to support him in an eventual run for party leader.
No one has announced that he or she will run against Netanyahu in the primary.
Netanyahu said earlier this week that he would like to hold the leadership primary on February 23, because it would strengthen and stabilize the party and the coalition.
The prime minister hopes to hold a Likud central committee vote on whether to move up the primary on Tuesday, at the same time as the committee is set to elect its chairman. However, the party’s court has yet to decide whether to permit the move, and a wider court will convene on Sunday to rule on the matter.