The Coming Storm for Netanyahu

Gideon Sa'ar (right) with Netanyahu

Gideon Sa’ar (right) with Netanyahu

The road to the premiership may have just gotten a bit pricklier for Bibi Netanyahu. According to reports, former Interior Minister and No. 2 Likud member Gideon Sa’ar is considering to run against Netanyahu in the upcoming Likud primaries (scheduled for January 6, 2015).

For Netanyahu, Sa’ar’s challenge would be an unwelcome wrinkle in the plot (of which there are going to be hundreds more before it is all said and done). Before Sa’ar announced his sudden retirement from politics on September 17th, it was generally assumed that he would eventually replace Netanyahu as leader of the Likud party. A parliamentarian since 2003, Sa’ar developed a strong reputation during stints as Education Minister and Interior Minister. Many believed his departure, like that of former Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, was because of personal issues between him and Netanyahu; Sa’ar was upset with the prime minister‘s “undemocratic” attempts to thwart Reuven Rivlin’s ascendence to the presidency over the summer and failed to mention Netanyahu by name in his farewell speech.

There are three potential routes for Sa’ar at present:

1) Sit this race out and prepare for a return in the future.

2) Join Moshe Kahlon’s new party.

3) Challenge Bibi in the Likud primaries.

If Sa’ar in indeed considering a return to politics, now is the time. Israel’s political right may be polling well, but Netanyahu has never been weaker. And while joining Kahlon would be an intriguing possibility, Sa’ar has always claimed to be a “Likud Man”. More importantly, joining Kahlon would likely force Sa’ar to remain a secondary role player. This is why the 3rd scenario – while still a rumor – is the strongest possibility and a nightmare scenario for Netanyahu. Sa’ar commands the respect of many within the party who have grown tired of Netanyahu’s leadership and has proven himself willing to cooperate across the aisle.

Sa’ar may just be messing with Netanyahu. But if he does chose to run against the Prime Minister there will be no bigger story in the Israeli media for the next month.

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel