In swipe at Netanyahu, rival Sa’ar says PM will again fail to form a government

Challenger for Likud party leadership tours contested area near Jerusalem, declares ‘actions, not words’ will determine Israel’s hold of West Bank

Likud Gideon Sa'ar, right, visits in the West Bank area known as E1 near Ma'ale Adumim, on December 10, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Likud Gideon Sa'ar, right, visits in the West Bank area known as E1 near Ma'ale Adumim, on December 10, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the party leadership, berated the premier on Tuesday, predicting he would again fail to form a government if third elections are called.

Sa’ar, on a tour of the West Bank, said there is “no chance to form a government, even if we go to a third election.”

Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition after the April and September votes. The Knesset is expected to dissolve on Wednesday night and third elections called after the premier and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz failed to cobble together a coalition. The election, if called, would be held March 2, the two large parties agreed on Monday.

Sa’ar toured the E1 area, a strip of territory joining Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank. He also stood above the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar, which the High Court of Justice ruled could be demolished by the state, but has so far remained in place amid heavy international pressure.

He criticized the Netanyahu-led government for failing to dismantle the village, despite receiving court approval to do so.

“The future of Judea and Samaria will be determined with actions, not words,” says Sa’ar, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “Evacuate Khan al-Ahmar now.”

In May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled to green light the state’s plans to demolish the central West Bank Palestinian village, which was built without the necessary permits.

However, following intense international pressure, the government pushed off its plans in order to attempt to reach an agreement with the roughly 180 residents, in which they would leave on their own.

Last May, the state said it could not demolish the hamlet until a new government is formed. Israel has been experiencing a political deadlock since the April elections and repeat September elections, both of which failed to yield a government.

The West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, Sunday, October 21, 2018. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Netanyahu has recently pushed for annexing the Jordan Valley, a strategic area of the West Bank that runs along the border with Jordan. The prime minister has insisted that Israel currently enjoys a unique “window of opportunity” provided by a supportive Trump administration that would allow it to annex the area with surmountable international backlash.

Sa’ar on Tuesday also discussed his prospective leadership bid, saying: “I am convinced that if I win and become the leader of Likud, I will lead it to a great victory.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the conference of the Israeli newspaper ‘Makor Rishon’ at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Monday Netanyahu said that Likud will hold primaries for the party leadership if a new election is called, answering the call of activists and potential challengers who had urged him to hold a vote.

Sa’ar, who has pushed for the primary and has been increasingly vocal against Netanyahu, welcomed the announcement.

Netanyahu’s insistence that he continue to serve first as prime minister under a leadership rotation with the Blue and White party in a power-sharing unity government has been cited by the latter party as a key obstacle to closing a coalition deal. Blue and White is refusing to serve under Netanyahu due to charges he faces in three corruption cases.

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