Lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar asked the Likud Party’s Central Committee to schedule primary elections for a new party leader within two weeks.
Sa’ar in an official request on Sunday asked that the primaries be held soon so the winner would still have time to form a government before the 21 days now counting down for Knesset lawmakers to choose a colleague to form a majority coalition government after first Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Blue and White head Benny Gantz failed to do so.
Sa’ar’s latest bid to lead the party comes days after Netanyahu, who heads Likud, was indicted on charges of bribery and breach of public trust in three different corruption cases against him.
In late 2014 Sa’ar took a hiatus from politics, returning in 2017 and reentering the Knesset in 2019.
Likud has been led by four men since its founding in 1973: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, Gantz on Saturday night called upon the Likud leadership to join him in a unity government.
“Even if we do not agree on everything, you, like my friends and myself, share the Zionist values of partnership and unity, security without compromise, a strong economy and a united society. This is your moment to put the fears and threats of the past aside and to lead all of Israeli society into a new era of recovering and healing,” he said.
Gantz offered a deal under which he would serve as prime minster for the first two years, “during which time Netanyahu will be able to focus on his legal affairs. In the event that he is acquitted, he will then be able to return to serve as prime minister.” This has been a non-starter in past negotiations.
He also called on Netanyahu to “resign from office and fight for his innocence.”