Likud’s Levin says he refused Netanyahu offer to become PM

Former Knesset speaker also claims a list of Likud members was delivered to New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar to select candidate to become premier; Sa’ar: Not true

Then-Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the  Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank on March 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Knesset speaker Yariv Levin said he refused an offer from Benjamin Netanyahu to become prime minister during attempts to form a government earlier this year.

“I immediately announced that I do not see myself [taking this position]. He tried to convince me I was making a mistake,” Levin told Channel 13 news in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

“I refused [the offer] because I think I have more to learn and I have more experience to gain,” added the former Knesset speaker.

The Likud lawmaker also shed more light on what he said were Netanyahu’s offers of the premiership position to others following March’s election, as the Likud leader tried but failed to muster a coalition.

“Benjamin Netanyahu sent me, and others, to offer to Benny Gantz, Gideon Sa’ar, and to Naftali Bennett, to be the prime minister first in a rotation agreement,” said Levin.

After these offers were rejected, Netanyahu offered New Hope leader Sa’ar a list of Likud MKs and asked him to choose who he would like appointed prime minister in exchange for joining a Likud-led coalition, according to Levin.

Sa’ar, a former Likud minister who broke away from the party to oust Netanyahu from power, ultimately rejected the list, according to Levin.

“The moment the offer was delivered, he signed with the other side,” he said.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

According to Levin, Netanyahu also offered to hold snap primaries to choose a new Likud leader, despite previous indications he had not been willing to hold the internal vote.

Netanyahu roundly won Likud primaries in 2019 when he defeated a challenge by former party minister Sa’ar.

Sa’ar then left Likud in 2020 to start the New Hope party, which campaigned on not serving in a government under Netanyahu and is now part of the new coalition.

Likud has put off holding another round of primaries since then, amid political turmoil that saw four general elections in two years.

In response to Levin’s interview, Sa’ar said the claim that a list of Likud names for prime minister was presented to him during coalition negotiations earlier this year “is not true.”

Sa’ar is serving as justice minister under the new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, which removed Netanyahu from power after 12 years.

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