Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar ratcheted up his criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, warning that the party could lose the reins of power should the prime minister remain in control of the party going into the expected third round of elections in a year.
Sa'ar, who is seen as Netanyahu's greatest challenger within the Likud, also accused the prime minister and his son Yair of inciting against those who back Sa'ar's demand to hold primaries for the party leadership.
Likud is "heading to a very dangerous place," Sa'ar said in the Ynet studio.
He speculated that high-ranking members of his own party who attacked him for challenging Netanyahu's leadership were doing so for their own interests.
"They all have personal agendas and have all expressed an interest in leading the party," Sa'ar said and posed the question whether a democratic challenge should be branded as "treason" and "a knife in the back" of the leader.
Sa'ar said that not only had he and his family been viciously attacked over his leadership bid, "any local government leader that comes out in favor of my primary challenge is attacked too."
A third election in less than one year he said, is "madness" and will cost Israelis money as well as tear society apart. Furthermore, he said, another round of elections would not significantly change the political landscape except to the detriment of the Likud.
"If Netanyahu persists in holding on to the leadership of the party, we will find ourselves in the same position after the next election or worse still, we would hand off power to the other side," he said.
Sa'ar also denied an allegation by Netanyahu ally and foreign minister Israel Katz that he was preparing to leave Likud and try to form a government coalition independent of the party.
"I am an elected member of Likud and my challenge for the leadership of the party is the legitimate way to go," he said.
"Netanyahu already proposed that he remain in office for just a few months and then hand the premiership to Blue and White [leader Benny Gantz]. He would rather see the opposition in power than let someone from Likud take over," Sa'ar said adding that though the prime minister is a great leader, Likud has put forward great leaders before.