Ex-minister stresses he accepts Netanyahu will lead Likud in next elections, won’t comment on what might happen if PM is indicted
Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Friday that his return to politics is the first step in a journey whose ultimate goal is to become prime minister.
Sa’ar announced his return to politics on Monday, two and a half years after he left the political scene in a move that surprised his colleagues.
“I returned in order to reach the leadership of the country in the future,” Sa’ar told Channel 10 in an interview aired Friday evening.
The former minister announced his comeback at a time when the party has already agreed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be its head in the next elections.
According to the Likud party’s rules, the next leadership primary will only take place after the next general elections.
Sa’ar said he accepted the party’s decision regarding Netanyahu’s leadership.
“My movement decided that Netanyahu will represent them in the next election and I accept that. The Likud must be strengthened ahead of the next elections, which will not be easy. I can do this and reach large [portions of the] public,” Sa’ar said.
Netanyahu is the subject of several ongoing corruption investigations and there is a possibility he may be indicted in coming months.
Political pundits believe Sa’ar might seek the top party post if Netanyahu’s leadership wavers, but he refused to comment on that Friday.
“I am not willing to play a theoretical game of what if,” Sa’ar said, adding, however, “I felt ill at ease from after the Netanyahu-Mozes talks.”
Sa’ar was referring to an ongoing investigation into a suspected quid pro quo deal made between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, in which the prime minister is said to have promised Mozes — long considered one of the Israeli leader’s fiercest media critics — that he would advance legislation to reduce the circulation of Yedioth’s main commercial rival, Israel Hayom, in exchange for favorable coverage from Yedioth.
According to a recent report, Netanyahu also asked Mozes for help in denting the popularity of Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, whom he views as a rival for leadership of Israel’s political right.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
A survey conducted by Channel 10 earlier this week found that a Likud led by Sa’ar would win 29 seats, tying with centrist party Yesh Atid.
Responding to the survey, Sa’ar said he has “a dispute with Lapid’s path, but I respect him as a person.”
“Nevertheless, I do not agree with his views and will work hard so that he will not become prime minister,” he added.
Sa’ar was asked about his wife, Geula Even-Sa’ar, who was recently appointed the main newscaster of the public news corporation Kan, which was expected to take over from the Israel Broadcast Authority in coming weeks. According to a deal between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, however, Kan’s news department will be scrapped, and the current IBA news department will handle news for the next few months. Sa’ar’s wife might be one of the casualties if this deal is implemented.
The former minister said his wife’s achievements were her own and that she was “an esteemed professional.”