Lawmaker Michal Shir on Monday became the latest defector from the Likud, announcing that she had chosen to join Gideon Sa’ar and his new party ahead of likely new elections.
Shir made the announcement after she joined the opposition to vote against a bill that would have deferred a Tuesday midnight deadline for passing the 2020 state budget, and thus set Israel on an almost certain course to its fourth general election in two years.
Barring a highly improbable rapprochement Tuesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the Knesset will automatically dissolve at midnight, and Israelis will go to the polls again, probably on March 23, 2021.
“My conscience is clear that I did the little I could to end this embarrassing excuse for a government mired in disputes, holding an entire nation hostage to (maintaining their) political seats,” she wrote on Twitter.
Shir said she would resign from the Knesset in order to run in the next elections with Sa’ar’s New Hope party.
A longtime political adviser to Sa’ar, Shir, 41, beat out Netanyahu’s former bureau chief David Sharan in the last Likud primaries for the regional Tel Aviv spot, in a race that was seen as a mini faceoff between the prime minister and his apparent challenger.
Sa’ar, who resigned from the Likud party last week, has already been joined by MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel of the minor Derech Eretz faction and by popular MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, who became the first Likud lawmaker to defect to New Hope. Hebrew media reports indicated she would be No. 2 on Sa’ar’s slate.
New Hope’s recently published platform includes backing West Bank settlements and reforming the judicial system, both causes championed by the right.
Sa’ar is an opponent of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, and ran to the right of Netanyahu in his unsuccessful bid for the Likud leadership last year.
A poll published Sunday pointed to growing support for Sa’ar’s new party, eating into the electoral strength of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc.
New Hope was forecast by Channel 13 to pick up 19 seats, up from 17 in a survey aired by the network last week, which would make it the second largest faction after Likud, which the poll said would get 28 seats (down from the 36 it currently holds).