What the Likud knows but won’t say

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Opinion: Although most of the party’s members won’t express it aloud, and may besmirch Gideon Sa’ar for demanding a leadership race, they know he is right and that to save Likud, the prime minister has got to go

Uri Heitner -www.ynetnews.com

The members of the Likud (known in Israel as Likudniks) love to boast about their party’s internal democracy, whose apex is certainly the primary elections for the leadership of the party. In fact, they love to boast that they’re probably one of the last political parties to actually still conduct internal elections.

The Likudniks indeed have cause to be proud – even if one does not ignore the less savory side of the primary elections, one cannot deny their existence.

That’s why it is peculiar to see that every time a Likudnik rises to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership of the party, they are branded by their peers as nothing more than a traitor trying to undermine the party’s leadership.

When the Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev says her colleague MK Gideon Sa’ar “stabbed Netanyahu and the Likud in the back,” it’s no surprise that the responses on social media were also overflowing with bile.

Indeed, it didn’t take too long for the armchair right-wingers to invent the worst labels they could for Sa’ar, calling him a partner in the so-called “coup” against the prime minister.

It seems that this is what is to be expected when taking the idea of internal Likud democracy seriously.

What can be said in criticism of Sa’ar is that he’s not demanding Netanyahu’s resignation on any moral grounds, nor is he demanding someone with a clean record as the leader of the country.

His main concern is the Likud’s political interests and his reason for calling on Netanyahu to resign is his belief that he will be unable to form a government now or in the future.

And while his fellow Likudniks keep silent or trot out their usual rhetoric, Sa’ar says publicly what most of them are saying privately: Netanyahu is done and it’s in the party’s best interests to replace him.

To Sa’ar’s credit, he did criticize Netanyahu’s incitement against Israel’s laws and their foundations, while other members of the Likud were scared to speak.

Due to the incitement against Sa’ar, it’s easy to see why the rest of the Likud’s senior members are staying quiet, their heroism summed up by the bar mitzvahs and weddings they simply had to attend to excuse their absence from last week’s protest organized by Netanyahu against his indictment.

Likud voters know that despite the claims that Sa’ar is a leftist and a traitor, he is in fact truly loyal to the party and its ideals.

They know that Sa’ar’s political career began in a youth movement founded in opposition to the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that ended with Israel giving up the Sinai peninsula).

The voters know that unlike Netanyahu, Sa’ar never voted in favor of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, and that he never made a speech akin to one Netanyahu gave at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, which included implicit support for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

When Sa’ar defends the foundations of the state and admonishes Netanyahu’s attacks on them, he’s being nothing but loyal to the Likud of yore.

I couldn’t tell you what Sa’ar’s chances are in a primary against Netanyahu, but the fact that the Likud is having them at all is significant.

The very fact that one of their number has risen to lead the Likud dissidents is vital to Israel’s democracy and tthe Likud.

 

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