Israel Likud central committee chair backs Gideon Sa’ar in leadership bid

Likud central committee chair Haim Katz has endorsed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival Gideon Sa’ar, in the latter’s bid to win the forthcoming party leadership primary, reported Haaretz.

Katz joins Likud Knesset members Yoav Kish, Michal Shir Segman and Etty Atia in endorsing Sa’ar.

MK Katz, a former Labor minister, has headed the central committee since 2015, and, according to Haaretz, “is believed to have influence over thousands of Likud party members at Israel Aerospace Industries, where he once headed the workers’ committee”.

On Sunday, Likud MK Sharren Haskel also announced that she would back Sa’ar in the party leadership primary set to take place on 26 December.

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“I’m sure that in the pages of history, Benjamin Netanyahu will be remembered as one who brought many achievements to Israel on the security and policy level as well as on the economic level,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

“But on the other hand, within a year we were thrust into a difficult governance crisis and a third round of elections, after Likud was given the chance to form a government twice, and twice did not succeed,” Haskel added.

Sa’ar officially launches his campaign today, and has appointed Kish his campaign chief. Sa’ar will argue that only he can expand the right-wing bloc in the forthcoming elections, Israel’s third in a year. For now, however, nearly all cabinet members from Likud are backing Netanyahu.

On Thursday, an online poll by Kan asked how respondents would vote if Sa’ar took hold of Likud, projecting that Likud under Netanyahu would gain 31 seats, but would only receive 27 under Sa’ar.