Finance Minister Israel Katz told activists for the ruling Likud on Sunday that in an attempt to prevent the party’s fall from power, he had suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu step aside temporarily to enable the formation of a right-wing government.
The development confirmed several reports in Hebrew media over the past two months that were vehemently denied by Katz at the time.
Katz wrote that he recently proposed to Netanyahu that he hold fresh primaries for the party leadership, with the winner replacing the incumbent as prime minister for a single year — after which Netanyahu would presumably return.
Katz apparently thought this would allow right-wing parties that oppose Netanyahu personally, including Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, to join the government. Katz believed he would win the primaries and temporarily become prime minister.
“I believed my chances of election were high due to my roots in the movement and my extensive experience and the senior positions in which I successfully served as agriculture, transportation, intelligence, foreign and now finance minister,” Katz said.
Netanyahu rejected the offer.
Channel 12 political analyst Amnon Abramovich on Sunday night quoted two unnamed Likud ministers expressing their dismay over Netanyahu’s refusal to put party interests ahead of his own.
“What’s astounding is that he’s prepared to give the prime ministership to [rivals Benny] Gantz, to [Naftali] Bennett or to Sa’ar, that’s he’s prepared to go into the opposition — just so long as there is not a different candidate [for prime minister] from the Likud,” Abramovitch quoted them as saying about Netanyahu.
Sa’ar and Yamina party leader Bennett are widely expected to announce this week that they are teaming up with the anti-Netanyahu Knesset bloc to form a right-center-left government ousting the incumbent from power. In the light of Katz’s proposal, the long-serving prime minister’s political demise would at least partly stem from Netanyahu’s refusal to temporarily step aside and allow a right-wing government to be formed with a different Likud leader at the helm.