Netanyahu Remains at Helm of Israel’s Likud after Leadership Challenge
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will continue as chairman of his Likud party following an unsuccessful campaign to unseat him by a popular former cabinet minister. With all the ballots from the December 26 primary counted, Netanyahu received support from 72.5% of the party members who braved wet and blustery winter weather to go out and vote, compared to 27.5% for challenger Gideon Sa’ar. The prime minister failed to assemble a governing coalition following two snap elections in 2019 – with a third coming up in early March 2020 – and is facing indictments for alleged corruption, bringing into question his ability to continue leading the party. Nevertheless, many of his critics were uncertain as to whether Sa’ar, who is 17 years younger and has never held more than a mid-level cabinet post, is up to leading a country facing severe security threats from several directions at once. There is also a growing government deficit that has resulted in massive cutbacks, including the cancelation of mental health services for residents of the South who are regularly targeted by rockets launched by Palestinians in the nearby Gaza Strip.