Political earthquake: Likud members break from party and stake out against Bibi

The Israeli political scene was shaken up further this week when Gideon Sa’ar left the Likud and decided to form his own party to unseat the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sa’ar already has two other Knesset members who are joining him, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser from the Derech Eretz party. This comes a week after the Knesset voted to dissolve the government and go to new elections — the fourth in two years. The vote still needs to pass more readings before it is official.

In announcing his resignation from Likud, Sa’ar said he would form his own party, Tikvah Hadasha (New Hope), because he could no longer remain in the government with Netanyahu. 

“The Likud has changed and become a tool serving its leader and his legal battle,” Sa’ar said. “I can no longer support the Likud under Netanyahu. I decided to form a new party in which in the election I will run against Netanyahu and replace him.”

On Wednesday, Sa’ar spoke with several Knesset members, some from his own party, who are reportedly considering joining him. Though only Hendel and Hauser plus a few mayors have announced they will join him, it remains to be seen whether Sa’ar will draw any big names with him including former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.

This move has the potential to split several parties and create new potential coalitions in a future election. Polls immediately after his announcement, show that Sa’ar would win between 17 to 23 seats if elections were held now.

Likud still gets the most votes, but Sa’ar’s party could unite other right and center parties that could outnumber Netanyahu’s bloc with the ultra-Orthodox parties. 

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who has been the frontrunner of Netanyahu challengers up until now, criticized Sa’ar for forming a party just to run in opposition to Netanyahu.

“The political system and the media have become obsessed with being pro-Bibi or anti-Bibi,” Bennett said. “It has become as if the face of Israel is just ‘yes Bibi’ or ‘no Bibi.’ They ask this question all the time, and I say I didn’t enter politics for ‘only Bibi’ or ‘not Bibi.’ Parties should not be established just to be ‘only Bibi’ or ‘not Bibi.’”

On Wednesday, the Knesset committee advanced a bill to dissolve the government and go to new elections. 

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