The night before premier nomination talks were set to begin, New Hope Chairman Gideon Saar on Sunday ruled out once again the possibility of joining or backing a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"When we launched our election campaign, I said clearly whoever wants Netanyahu to stay, I ask them not to vote for me," Saar told his supporters. "I reiterate — we will not join or back a government led by Netanyahu and we will push with everything we've got to establish a government of change in the State of Israel.
"This is what I'm striving for these days. We want a government of reconciliation that will reunite the people. I say again, no kind of pressure will change this."
The former Likudnik went on to blame his erstwhile boss for Israel's four election rounds in the last two years and urged Netanyahu to vacate his position "to allow Israel to move forward."
He further stated that he supported the establishment of a fully right-wing government but remained in his steadfast opposition to the premier, insisting that "nothing will force Netanyahu on us." He did not specify which candidate he will recommend for prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin when party leaders convene at his Jerusalem residence on Tuesday.
The 54-year-old then called on Netanyahu's supporters and colleagues to "eradicate Bibism [referring to the veteran leader's popular childhood nickname] before it eradicates Likud".
Netanyahu and his orbit have been bringing the pressure to bear on Saar following the March 23 election to set all differences aside and become a focal appendage in a joint government — appeals which he had repeatedly rebuffed.
Earlier on Sunday, Religious Zionist party chief Bezalel Smotrich urged Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett to back Netanyahu to form the next government.
The far-right lawmaker also called on both Bennett and Saar to follow through on their election promises and prevent Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid from forming a government.