Foreign Minister Israel Katz sharply criticized fellow Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar for his call to conduct a snap party leadership primary, labeling Sa'ar's bid for Likud headship a disloyal attempt to oust Likud's acting chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Sa'ar is playing right into Blue and White's hands, all they're trying to do is disqualify Netanyahu and Sa'ar is also allegedly trying to make that happen. This morning, he had said that "it doesn't matter who'll be prime minister first" and called on Netanyahu to give up and he even called him to step down yesterday," Katz told in an interview with Ynet. "These statements are disloyal coming from a legitimate candidate, who asks for the public's trust and to present an alternative [to Netanyahu]. This is full adoption of the invalid statements made by the other side, statements that neither the public nor the heads of Likud accepted."
If Sa'ar wants to collect the 61 signatures (of Knesset members needed for a candidate to form a government) without consulting Likud bodies, that's his own private move. He wants primaries and he wants to get elected now – it's an attempt to hinder Netanyahu's authority."
Katz also spoke about his absence from Tuesday night's support rally for Netanyahu, saying he would not protest state establishments overseen by the government.
"As a minister, I wouldn't attend a protest against state establishments overseen by the government," said Katz. "However, everyone has the right to express their opinion and protest without violence."
A spokesperson on behalf of Gideon Sa'ar denied on Wednesday the allegations made by Katz.
"These are fallacious claims, no one is collecting signatures on behalf of MK Sa'ar. Had Sa'ar wanted to do so, he would've collected the required 61 signatures and even more with ease," said the spokesperson. "Sa'ar reiterates his demand to conduct a swift and democratic vote in Likud to prevent a third round of elections."
Blue and White have issued a response, taking a jibe at Katz and his 2008 demand for former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down after he was accused of corruption.
"We remind Katz what he had said on Olmert – 'There's no escape – the prime minister must resign and enable a new round of elections and the formation of a new government."
This statement doubles down on a video released by the centrist party last week, depicting the prime minister calling on predecessor Olmert to step down when he faced his own criminal charges.
The video of Netanyahu shows him saying to Olmert: "A prime minister who is bogged down in investigations has no moral and public mandate to decide such fateful events for the State of Israel."