Likud MK and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is challenging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for leadership of the Likud in tomorrow’s leadership election, to drop out of the race.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Ma’ariv conference, Barkat said it was clear Sa’ar would lose the vote, urging him to drop out of the race and help unify the Likud ahead of the March 2nd general election.
“As far as I’m concerned, the Likud primaries tomorrow are unnecessary,” said Barkat. “We even know the results beforehand.”
“On the one hand, any democratic run is ostensibly legitimate – but at a time when no other party is holding primaries and everyone else is getting ready for the general election, it is a terrible mistake to force the Likud to deal with an internal election.”
Barkat called on Sa’ar to drop out of Thursday’s race, which would effectively cancel the primary vote, as Sa’ar is the only candidate challenging Netanyahu for leadership of the party.
“Gideon, the results are known beforehand. You are going to lose. I advise you to already do some soul-searching now on the unfriendly decision which you unnecessarily forced onto every Likud member and the Prime Minister.”
“Stop talking about the ‘defeat of the right-wing government’, come back home so that you can take part in the massive effort to ensure the victory of the Likud and the nationalist camp in the March 2nd election,” Barkat continued, referencing Sa’ar’s claims that a Netanyahu win in Thursday’s Likud primary would ensure the defeat of the right-wing bloc in the general election.
Sa’ar has cited recent polls showing the right-wing bloc performing better in a general election if he leads the Likud to support his claim that he would be better able to secure a clear right-wing victory.
Polls comparing the likely outcome of the election if the Likud is led by Netanyahu or Sa’ar show the Likud performing relatively poorly under Sa’ar, though the right-wing bloc as a whole is projected to win more seats under Sa’ar – due in part to the fact that the Jewish Home and National Union pass the electoral threshold if Sa’ar leads the Likud, but do not if Netanyahu retains control.
“The margin of [Netanyahu’s] victory in the primary will determine the size of our victory in the Knesset election,” continued Barkat. “I call on Netanyahu’s supporters to come out and vote even in the rain and wind, and to send a clear message to all of Israel’s citizens that the Likud is united around Binyamin Netanyahu.”