After indictments, Netanyahu faces opposition from within his own party

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a meeting on Nov. 20 in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: Amir Levy / Stringer

Two days after the attorney general's decision to indict him for bribe, fraud and breach of trust, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing opposition from within his own Likud party.

Driving the news: Gideon Sa'ar — a former minister and a popular member of Knesset from Likud — called Netanyahu on Saturday and requested snap primaries for the party chairmanship.

Why it matters: This is the most significant challenge against Netanyahu from within his own party in the last decade. Since becoming prime minister in 2009, Netanyahu has crushed dissent and has used party procedures to prevent real primaries for the chairmanship since 2014.

What they're saying: Sa'ar went all out against Netanyahu in an interview he gave to Channel 12 on Saturday, saying the prime minister is unable to form a government due to the indictments against him and stressing the Likud could lose if Israel goes for a third election.

  • Sa'ar called for snap primaries in the Likud within two weeks to try to form a government before a third election is called.
  • He added that he plans to run against Netanyahu if such primaries are held.

He also criticized Netanyahu's attacks on the police and the attorney general and rejected Netanyahu's claim that the indictments against him are an attempted coup.

"It is untrue and irresponsible to talk about a coup and it creates anarchy in the country and I am against that."
— Gideon Sa'ar

At the same time, the leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz held a press conference and tried to encourage dissent within Netanyahu's party. Gantz called on senior Likud members to speak out against Netanyahu and said he is ready to try to form a unity government with other Likud leaders, but without Netanyahu.

What's next: Sa'ar's challenge to Netanyahu is an important development, but it is unclear whether it could lead to a rebellion. Most other senior Likud members have remained silent and are not joining Sa'ar's criticism.

  • Netanyahu still has a lot of power in his party and even if primaries are held, he still has the best chance of winning.

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