Former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein announced Monday evening that he will challenge Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu in a future election for party leadership.
Edelstein is considered one of the most popular Knesset members in the conservative party and ranked second after Netanyahu in its last primaries.
Speaking to Hebrew-language Channel 12, Edelstein said that he's launching his bid for the party's top post because he believed the party will not be able to come back to power with Netanyahu at the helm after losing the premiership to Naftali Bennet in June.
"With Netanyahu, we will never win. We've tried four times with Netanyahu, why should we succeed with him a fifth time?" he said, referring to Israel's four consecutive election campaigns between 2019 and 2021 which caused unprecedented political instability.
The former health minister further said that he believed the current government, which is comprised of a loosely knit bind of parties from all over the political spectrum, could be replaced without another round of elections.
According to Edelstein, there are 70 right-wing seats in the current Knesset that would agree to form a government under his leadership, banking on the support of Justice Minister Gideon Saar — himself a former Likud heavyweight who had previously launched a failed bid to unseat Netanyahu.
After the latest election, Saar had ruled out categorically sitting in a Netanyahu government but stated in the past is willing to sit in a government led by a different Likud chairman.
"It is time to change a record. Netanyahu was a good prime minister, but he can no longer be elected. It is either me or a dangerous government headed by [Foreign Minister Yair Lapid] Lapid with Meretz and Ra'am," Edelstein said.
Although the 63-year-old is the first to announce that he will run against Netanyahu, MK Nir Barkat has also hinted at launching his own bid for Likud leadership.