Sa’ar’s exit prompts efforts to limit Likud leader’s term

Sa'ar doesn't think he'll be returning to politics soon.

Former interior minister Gideon Sa'ar. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former interior minister Gideon Sa'ar.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s surprising announcement that he intends to take a break from politics spurred new efforts Thursday to pass what would amount to a de facto term limit for the leader of the Likud.
Netanyahu is in his fourth term as chairman of the party.
The Likud has had only four leaders and has a history of never toppling them.
Likud officials predicted that a proposal to set an actual term limit for party leader would not pass at this stage because it would be seen as toppling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But they said a more indirect proposal had a good chance of passing, especially amid the anger at Netanyahu for driving away Sa’ar and former minister Moshe Kahlon from the Likud leadership.
The Likud’s law committee, chaired by Netanyahu’s nemesis, MK Danny Danon, intends to pass a controversial proposal after the holidays and shortly after Sa’ar’s resignation takes effect. The proposal would require a special majority of up to 60 percent in a party primary for an incumbent to win reelection as party leader.
“The proposal is intended to emphasize that we are a democratic party that has a real competition for party chairman,” said the proposal’s co-sponsor Shevach Stern, chairman of the Likud’s Binyamin region branch. “An incumbent prime minister sits on the horse and enjoys an unfair advantage over his competition. I think he should even be allowed to run 10 times, but the competition has to be fair.”
Stern said that the Likud prevents incumbent MKs from running for slots on the Likud Knesset electoral list reserved for candidates from districts and sectors, so it was only fitting that a sitting prime minister be limited as well. Danon said Stern’s proposal stood a good chance of passing.
“I don’t want revenge,” Stern said. “I just want democracy, transparency and fairness in the party.”
Likud MK Gila Gamliel, whom Netanyahu is expected to appoint as a minister soon, said she would vigorously oppose the proposal.
“I will try to prevent it from passing because at a time when the prime minister has no competition from other parties or inside the Likud, it is wrong to hobble him,” she said.
Netanyahu is expected to decide on new political appointments by the end of the holidays, due to Sa’ar’s departure. He has already reassured Gamliel that he will keep his promise to her to promote her to the cabinet.
Likud MKs were waiting to see on Thursday whether Communications Minister Gilad Erdan would change his decision to accept the post of ambassador to the United Nations, because of Sa’ar’s departure.
If he stays, Netanyahu is expected to offer him Sa’ar’s Interior portfolio and Gamliel would replace him in the Communications Ministry.
If Erdan leaves for the UN, a more serious reshuffle of posts among Likud politicians would take place, with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi likely to receive a portfolio.
Several Likud MKs said on Thursday that they considered themselves worthy of receiving promotion. For instance, MK Miri Regev declared herself “fit to be a senior minister.”
Sa’ar told reporters in Lod that he was relieved to be leaving politics. He dismissed reports that he would make a political comeback soon.
“Giving up power takes a lot of power,” he said. “I read all the analyses. I didn’t leave last night in order to return the following morning. I have heard a rumor that there is life after politics and I would like to check it out.”