Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Israeli politician aims to oust Netanyahu in Likud primary

Gideon Saar hopes to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in the first serious internal challenge to the prime minister in his more than a decade in power.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights a Hanukkah candle at the Western Wallin Jerusalem (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights a Hanukkah candle at the Western Wallin Jerusalem (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Israel’s governing Likud party was holding primary elections on Thursday, in the first serious internal challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his more than a decade in power.

Veteran politician Gideon Saar hopes to unseat Mr Netanyahu, arguing that he will be better placed to form a government in national elections in March after the premier failed to do so twice in two repeat polls this year.

bpanews_ecfd5f20-b47f-4aa5-9d0f-7c257f80992c_embedded249233750
Posters of veteran politician Gideon Saar from the governing Likud Party at a voting centre in the northern Israeli city of Hadera (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Despite the shadow of corruption indictments hanging over him, Mr Netanyahu remains popular among Likud members, and the fiercely loyal party, which has only had four leaders since its inception in the 1970s, has stood firmly behind the long-serving leader.

He is expected to defeat Mr Saar and a win could strengthen his hand going into the next national vote.

But Mr Saar, who has garnered support from a handful of Likud backbenchers, could benefit from stormy weather that might keep turnout low. If he wins, he would become Likud’s candidate for prime minister in the March polls.

“We are imbued with the spirit of victory,” Yoav Kisch, Saar’s campaign manager, told Israeli Army Radio. “This candidacy is good for the party and I believe can also bring the change and the hope for a revolution in the Likud.”

bpanews_ecfd5f20-b47f-4aa5-9d0f-7c257f80992c_embedded249233763
People look at a poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Hadera (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Mr Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases in which he is accused of trading legislative or regulatory favours in exchange for lavish gifts or favourable media coverage.

He denies wrongdoing and has waged an angry campaign against the media and law enforcement officials he said are bent on ousting him from office. His supporters have tried to paint Mr Saar as part of the same conspiracy.

Polls close at 11pm and results are expected early on Friday.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph