Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Sunday said his New Hope party “saved” Israel by helping form a government that unseated former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He was speaking as a television survey showed New Hope, which won six seats in the March 2021 elections, would fail to make it back into the Knesset if elections were held today.
Sa’ar and several other lawmakers broke off from Netanyahu’s Likud party last year to start New Hope, saying the veteran premier was putting his personal interests before the country as he sought to fend off graft charges and remain in office amid prolonged political deadlock. In June, New Hope joined with an ideological smorgasbord of factions to assemble a coalition that replaced Netanyahu after 12 consecutive years in power.
“I made this political move to save the country, our children. After a year, we’ve changed reality and saved the country, literally,” Sa’ar said during a party conference Sunday.
He noted Netanyahu’s efforts to entice New Hope members to agree to form a government with his bloc of right-wing and religious parties following elections in March, the fourth in two years. Such offers came after New Hope campaigned on a vow to topple the then-prime minister.
“There isn’t anyone who didn’t bravely withstand the temptations and pressures, and you know I received oral and written offers to be prime minister first in a rotation. I refused because I put the good of the country before my personal interest,” Sa’ar said.
“I knew that the continuation of the previous government would cause irreversible damage to the most sensitive and important institutions of the country,” he added.
The New Hope chief asserted that Likud members, outwardly fiercely loyal to Netanyahu, sounded a different tune about him behind closed doors.
“They said, ‘Gideon you are right,’ but they were scared,” Sa’ar said. “None of them had the courage to stand up in the face of the complete chaos.”
He also said New Hope “saved the honor of the national camp,” as the right often refers to itself. That camp had been dancing to Netanyahu’s tune and no longer represented the values it was founded on, he said.
Netanyahu and his political allies “think there is something temporary here. They tell themselves that the next time they’ll get 61 seats… They are delusional,” Sa’ar said.
Sa’ar’s comments came as a new television poll indicated New Hope would fail to pick up enough votes to enter the Knesset if new elections were held today.
According to the Channel 12 survey, Likud would be the largest party with 34 seats, followed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid with 19.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White were forecast to pick up nine seats a piece, while the center-left Labor, Haredi United Torah Judaism and far-right Religious Zionism each received seven seats in the survey.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, the predominantly Arab Joint List alliance and the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu received six seats each in the poll. The left-wing Meretz and Islamist Ra’am were each awarded five seats.
Without Sa’ar, the poll gave the parties that make up the ruling coalition 57 seats, short of a majority in the 120 seat Knesset. Netanyahu’s opposition bloc — which includes Likud, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionism — was also predicted to get 57 seats, renewing the parliamentary deadlock between the former prime minister and his rivals. The Joint List of mainly Arab parties, with six seats in the poll, would hold the balance of power.
The survey, conducted by pollster Manu Geva, included 509 respondents and had a 4.4 percent margin of error.