The acting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, today measures his leadership at the head of the rightist Likud, in a primary that will reveal if he maintains the support of the militants after his accusation for corruption and if Guideon Saar becomes the first internal rival capable of face it.
From nine o’clock in the morning local time (07.00 GMT) and until eleven o’clock at night (21.00 GMT), the 116,048 Likud affiliates vote today at the 106 polls distributed throughout the country, in a primary whose results are expected this Friday and they can be fundamental to the future of which the last decade has been prime minister.
Netanyahu, accused since November of bribery, fraud and abuse of trust in three cases of corruption, failed to form a government after the elections of April and September, and intends to retain the leadership of the party, which guarantees him the first place on the list for the electoral repetition next March 2.
In addition, the current president seeks to confirm, with today’s election, the unwavering loyalty of the militants vis-à-vis Saar, who, since the accusation for corruption was formalized, pressured the leadership to be renewed.
The son of an Israeli teacher and an Argentine doctor who arrived in Israel in the 1960s, Saar militated from a young age in right-wing organizations and, after a brief career as a journalist and a few years as an official of the Ministry of Justice, held his first important position in Likud in 1998, as secretary of the Cabinet of the first government of Bibi (Netanyahu).
After a short period where he devoted himself to law, Saar returned to the Likud, then already led by Ariel Sharón, and in 2003 he first became a deputy of the Knesset (Parliament).
From that moment he was climbing positions within the formation and, in addition to being number two on the list of the party in the 2009 and 2013 elections, he was Minister of Education and then Interior.
During those years, based in the secular Tel Aviv, it implemented some liberal social policies but also adopted the iron right line that characterizes it and that has remarkably emphasized in recent weeks, promising as Netanyahu the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the colonies beans in the occupied West Bank.
He has described the two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians as “an illusion” and has proposed building more settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel.
Despite having meant as a rival of Netanyahu, the analysts foresee a victory of the current prime minister, although receiving high support could position Saar as a natural successor at the head of the Likud when Bibi leaves the position, either voluntarily, by way electoral or forced by its legal situation.
Although Bibi remains the head of the list, the Supreme Court must decide next Tuesday if a defendant may or may not be charged with forming an Executive, something that could prove decisive for Netanyahu’s political future.
As prime minister, although on duty and with the Parliament dissolved, you can still ask the House for immunity until January 1.
Beyond the legal difficulties, the current president faces for the first time in fourteen years as leader of the party an opponent that represents a real challenge and, in addition, has managed to generate some internal divisions hitherto unpublished in the Likud.