Photo: Motti Kimchi
Gideon Sa'ar decides not to run against Netanyahu.
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Sa'ar's restraint spared Likud a bloody battle
Analysis: Former minister could have put up a serious fight against Netanyahu within Likud, but if he would have won he would have been left with a bruised, beaten and mangled party; his mature decision will eventually pay off.

The last thing that could be said of Gideon Sa'ar is that he is stupid, inexperienced or lacking political understanding. And despite this fact, the talented politician, who abandoned politics just a few months ago in order to help raise his newborn son, was almost tempted to put himself up to a likely impossible race with sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



What happened to Gideon Sa'ar? The temptation to run was enticing. Political heavyweights approached Sa'ar and even visited him at his home several times last week in an attempt to persuade him to run against Netanyahu. They made him promises and flashed big names.


The intensifying weakness of Netanyahu's status as prime minister, growing pressures from activists, and a series of tantalizing surveys pointing to weak spots in the Likud convinced Sa'ar to seriously weigh running against Netanyahu in almost hopeless conditions.


Even if the Likud primaries would have been held on the original date, and not a week earlier as it was decided on Wednesday, the odds that Sa'ar would win would have been pretty much the same.


This dismal fact is not the only reason that led Sa'ar to decide not to run for the head of the Likud.


The real reason is quite different.


Sa'ar realized that if he were to run against Netanyahu it would break up the Likud, which would ultimately hurt Sa'ar's chances of becoming prime minister.


The battle that never happend: Gideon Sa'ar versus Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky) (Photos: Alex Kolomoisky)
The battle that never happend: Gideon Sa'ar versus Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


A battle between Sa'ar and Netanyahu would have turned ugly - and fast. The campaign would have been violent, passionate, and full of accusations and insults.


Sa'ar would have been forced to reveal, in front of the cameras, what he really things of Netanyahu and his performance – especially of Netanyahu's campaign against Hamas during the summer. The allegations would have been sufficient explosive material for the Likud rival parties.


Thus, if Sa'ar were to beat Netanyahu, he would have been left with a bruised party that would not have had time to rehabilitate before the major elections.


The vote by center Likud members to expedite the primaries and hold them a week earlier ended Sa'ar's deliberations to run against the sitting prime minister. Even they understood that a vote against Netanyahu, at such a time, would lead to chaos in the Likud.


By voting to conduct earlier primaries, the central Likud members saved the movement from an acute confrontation between the current prime minister and the man who will most likely take over the reign of the Likud after the Netanyahu era.


Sa'ar's restraint, embodied in the decision not to run at the moment, was seen by the Likudniks – even those who had tried to sway him into running – as a responsible step, and as a step that puts the interests of the Likud before personal interests.


Sooner or later, Sa'ar will inherit the throne of Likud chairman. It could even happen in just three months if Netanyahu loses the elections and leaves. Or in a couple of years. 


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