Interior Minister Gideon Saar
Interior Minister Gideon Saar Flash 90

Former Likud minister Gideon Saar announced Thursday that he will not contend for leadership of the Likud party against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Likud primaries.

"In the circumstances that emerged and after giving the matter careful thought, I decided not to vie for leadership of Likud at this time,” he wrote on Facebook. “My heartfelt thanks to all those who inquired, for the trust and the warm support.”

Saar was critical of the decision by the Likud Central Committee Wednesday move up the date of the primaries to December 31 – a change that pundits believe was meant to make it hard for him to run. “My position was different, but I respect the decision,” he wrote.

"In the last few days I have received numerous, stirring requests by members of the movement and citizens who called on me to emerge from the time-out I announced three months ago, and vie for leadership of Likud,” he added. “I listened to all of you, I learned a lot, I consulted and weighed the issue with the seriousness and thoughtfulness necessitated by the responsibility a decision like this entails.

The decision to move up the date for the primaries by three weeks was approved by a majority of 65% Wednesday. Saar complained that it is wrong “to change the rules in mid-game.”