Gideon Sa’ar says former PM Bennett planning a return to politics

While he has not personally confirmed the rumors, Bennett has previously hinted at a comeback; polling shows his return would boost the anti-Netanyahu right

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)
Then-prime minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett intends to return to politics, New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar told reporters on Monday, on the basis of a private conversation held in early June.

Responding to a question from The Times of Israel during his party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, Sa’ar said that the last time he met with Bennett “was on the eve of the Shavuot holiday and I understand that that’s his plan.”

Bennett, who led the now-defunct Yamina party, has been out of office since the 2022 collapse of his diverse coalition government, which had ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the premiership after 12 consecutive years and unprecedented political turmoil that included four national elections in three years.

Asked by another reporter about the possibility of uniting the anti-Netanyahu right, Sa’ar responded that there are talks between the different opposition parties “all the time,” although “not everything is made public.”

Following the holiday, which fell this year on the evening of June 11, Bennett appeared to hint at a return to politics, tweeting that it was possible to rebuild a broad unity coalition similar to the one he established with now-Opposition Leader Yair Lapid in 2021.

A spokesperson for Bennett declined to comment.

New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Channel 12 poll broadcast last month found that a right-wing alliance led by Bennett, Sa’ar, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman, and former Mossad director Yossi Cohen would be the largest faction in the Knesset, if elections were held today, winning 25 seats.

A Channel 13 news asking the same question found the prospective party would win 34 seats, and as Bennett eclipsed Netanyahu in head-to-head matchups on who is better suited to be premier.

Asked who is most suited to serve as prime minister in another Channel 12 survey published last week, 37 percent of respondents said that they preferred Bennett over Netanyahu, with only 26% choosing the current premier and 33% saying neither of them.

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman MK Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on July 8, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sa’ar has previously said that he is open to making concessions in order to establish a right-wing bloc in opposition to the current government.

“I support and gave expression to the establishment of a bloc of incumbent and new right-of-center parties,” Sa’ar said at an Israel Bar Association conference in May.

“I do not want to say that I have already given up my ego. I am saying simply that if the goal is important, I will make personal concessions for the sake of unity.”

Discussing the possibility of uniting against Netanyahu on the political right during his Yisrael Beytenu party’s weekly faction meeting on Monday, Liberman said that there are currently no talks about places on a potential united slate, although “everyone talks to everyone and there is a good atmosphere.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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