Prime Minister Benjamin is working to hold early primary elections in an attempt to block former top Likud minister Gideon Sa'ar from running against him for the Likud party leadership in the 2015 elections, sources close to the prime minister said on Saturday.
According to the sources, Netanyahu is attempting to hold an early leadership primary within the Likud party in order to cut down Sa'ar's preparation efforts for the leadership elections.
As of now, the Likud primaries for the party leader are set for January 6. Netanyahu is now examining the possibility of moving up the party's primaries so that they will be held this month.
Three months ago, Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is considered one of the most powerful figures in the Likud party, dropped a political bombshell when he announced his decision to take a "time-out" from political life.
Sa'ar then announced: "I am leaving my job, but I am not leaving the Likud." The former minister said he would spend more time with his family. "Soon, my son David will take his first steps; I want to walk with him hand-in-hand."
Commenting on the bid for early primaries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "discussions regarding early primaries began last week."
Netanyahu added that moving up the Likud primaries would "shorten the primaries period, save resources and unite the Likud ahead of the elections in which the identity of the next prime minister and ruling party will be determined."
Senior Likud activists recently arrived at Sa'ar's home in the center of Tel Aviv and asked him to return to the party and run for leadership against Netanyahu. "We turned to him because we feel that if Netanyahu will lead the Likud – like in 1999 and in 2006 – the Likud will lose its leadership position".
One activist said: "Under this situation, it's best to avoid it in advance. Gideon listened to us and did not reject the possibility outright."
Likud MK Miri Regev commented on Friday on the possibility that S'ar would run against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, saying that: "there is no doubt that if Gideon Sa'ar runs for head of Likud, it would change the reality. I call on him to return home at this important hour."