Leading Israeli official forms new right-wing party to rival Netanyahu's Likud

Leading Israeli official forms new right-wing party to rival Netanyahu's Likud
Gideon Sa'ar announced the formation of a new political party in Israel.
3 min read
09 December, 2020
Sa'ar is set to form his own political party [Getty]
A senior Israeli official has announced his split from the ruling Likud Party and his plans to form a new political grouping, as the country prepares for another general election.

Gideon Sa'ar, a Likud Party rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to be joined by other members of the Knesset.

Sa'ar said his decision to break from Likud was motivated by his opposition to Netanyahu, who is dogged by allegations of corruption.

"Likud has been my political, and to a certain degree, my emotional home for all my life," Sa'ar said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Likud has increasingly and dramatically changed its path in recent years. The movement has become a tool to serve the interests of the prime minister, including those related to his criminal trial."

Sa'ar, a leading right-wing figure, is expected to be joined by other Knesset members such as Likud's Yifat Shasha-Biton and Israeli commander Gadi Eisenkot, according to Haaretz.

Knesset members Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel could also join, according to The Times of Israel

The new party, which is to be called 'New Hope', is Sa'ar's attempt to "replace" Netanyahu as a leading figure in Israeli politics, alleging a "cult of personality" in Likud surrounding the embattled premier.

He said during the Tuesday night press conference that he would resign his Knesset seat as a Likud member "tomorrow".

Sa'ar is viewed by many as a Likud Party hawk on the issues of illegal Israeli settlements and Palestinians. His new party appears set to join forces with other opponents of Netanyahu on the right and far-right.

Mtanes Shehadeh, head of the Balad Party in the Arab Joint List coalition, said that the split is further proof of a rightwards shift in Israeli politics.
"Racist Sa'ar attacks and splits from racist Netanyahu and soon we'll see the permanent and banal parade of generals to another right-wing list offering the exact same thing," said Shehadeh, according to Haaretz.

"They present no solution for the hundreds of thousands of citizens affected by the existential and economic crisis, or the millions of Palestinians struggling under the occupation. We will continue our political struggle no matter which racist is leading the government."

Sa'ar has previously stated he wouldn't leave Likud despite his ongoing rivalry with Netanyahu, the party alleged.

In 2019, he challenged Netanyahu in primary elections but was defeated.

He said the prime minister had "hurt me, hounded me, paid me back with pain for my good deeds, because I always did my best to focus on the good of the party and the good of the state".

Likud was quick to dismiss Sa'ar split as motivated by his fall from grace in the party.

"Sa'ar is leaving because he was defeated in the primaries and, in recent internal polls conducted by the Likud, he has fallen below tenth (slot on the Likud slate)," Likud said in a statement.

"Sa'ar swore time and time again that 'The Likud is my home and I won't leave it even if I lose. I don't believe in fragments of parties.'"

Israel is set to go to the polls for the fourth time in two years after Netanyahu's political rival and government coalition partner Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White Party, joined the opposition in a vote in what could be the first step towards dissolving the parliament.

Despite their personal and political differences, Netanyahu and Gantz had formed an emergency government to deal with the coronavirus epidemic in Israel, but since then infighting and economic woes have strained the relationship.

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