Benjamin Netanyahu faces a serious threat to his power by power when members of his ruling Likud party start voting in an internal vote and decide who will lead them in the unprecedented third Israeli election in rapid succession in March.
Despite fighting three allegations of corruption, the 70-year-old prime minister is expected to win leadership. Netanyahu dominated the glorious loyal right-wing party for most of the last two decades.
Much attention is focused on how much of his former protector, who turned to the opponent, Gideon Saar, could do on Likud’s Netanyahu waterproof side.
If Saar won a majority of votes, it would publicly weaken the prime minister when he is already crooked. Like the upcoming court cases, Netanyahu did not win a clear victory in two inconclusive elections this year.
Polls opened across the country at 9:00 (0700 GMT), with around 116,000 members voting. The vote will end at 23:00 local time and the results are expected overnight.
Tommy Levi, a 67-year-old taxi driver who has been a Likud member for 40 years, said in a polling station in downtown Jerusalem that he would vote for “Bibi”, a frequently used nickname of the Prime Minister.
“Bibi did things for Likud members that no one else could do,” he said, referring to Donald Trump’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem, a move condemned by Palestinians who also claim parts of the city. Israel, claiming all of Jerusalem, celebrated this move as a diplomatic triumph.
Outside the polling center, two white tents were built in the strong winter wind. One was for Netanyahu, where volunteers handed out t-shirts, stickers, and even umbrellas to several supporters. Besides, he had a much quieter tent for Saara’s leaflets.
Yaron Rochin, a 68-year-old volunteer Saar with a white fusion on the handlebars, admitted that most of the people who passed Thursday morning seemed to be a Netanyahu supporter. “I hope there will be more Saar fans by noon or evening, if not here, then in the rest of the country,” he said.
Saar, a former lawyer and journalist who held several senior government posts, focused his campaign on a promise to be a more optional leader to end the political stalemate that engulfed Israel.
Saar hoped to be Sombre and stable, compared to the more energized Netanyahu’s eye-catching and subtle style, to sway voters nostalgically as a more reticent statesman, though his position regarding the Palestinians is still hawkish and nationalistic.
While Netanyahu’s rivals outside his party focused on bribery charges and fraud, Saar mostly ignored them during the trial. This is seen as an attempt not to alienate the Likud voters, who believe the Prime Minister’s argument that the accusations are a media-led ‘witch-hunt’ in a broken judiciary.
The Israeli Prime Minister is involved in four cases concerning allegations of bribery and misconduct. In any case, he denies crime.
Case 1000 is an investigation into the gifts that Netanyahu and his family regularly receive from two wealthy businessmen, including cigars and pink champagne.
Case 2000 examines whether Netanyahu behaved in an inappropriate manner in an interview with a newspaper publisher, in which he seemed to try to negotiate more sympathetic coverage in exchange for reducing the circulation of competing paper.
Case 3000 is an investigation into alleged commissions for the purchase of German submarines. Netanyahu is not suspicious, but he was closely involved in the deal and the case has secured the members of his inner circle.
Case 4000, the most serious, includes allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq in exchange for positive stories on the Internet news website it owns, Walla.
Rochin, a volunteer of Saar, said that while supporting Saar, he was not “against Bibi” and did not believe the charges against him. A new leadership was needed after the “Bibi Judicial System”.
Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving leader, sought to extend his ten-year continuous tenure in high office this year after two elections, which yielded unclear results in which neither party was able to form a government coalition.
Polls show that the third election, set for March 2, could have a similar result.
At the polling station in Jerusalem, David Amsalem, the legislature of Likud, said he voted for Netanyahu. While respecting Saar’s leadership efforts, he said that the political crisis and potential threats to the Likud ten-year government meant that members should instead gather around their leader.
“This is not the moment,” he said.
Netanyahu spoke of his international prowess, especially with other right-wing leaders like Trump and his security data. More anti-government political opponents, however, portrayed the prime minister as indecisive to militants in Gaza.
On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu was rushed from the podium during a campaign in the southern city of Ashkelon after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip. This year was the second time he had to resort to an event his rivals tried to use as an example of their failed security policy.
“This situation, in which Israeli citizens live at the mercy of terrorists and the Israeli Prime Minister is unable to overlook parts of his country, is a shame for security policy in the south,” his centrist rival Benny Gantz said in a statement. .