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Netanyahu poised to welcome former rival Sa’ar into War Cabinet

After Gideon Sa'ar splits from alliance with Benny Gantz, the PM said to view him as "right-wing insurance" for shaky government.

Ministers Benny Gantz (left) and Gideon Sa'ar. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.
Ministers Benny Gantz (left) and Gideon Sa'ar. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.

Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Gideon Sa’ar announced Tuesday that his New Hope Party will no longer be part of the alliance with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, essentially dissolving the Knesset entity called the National Unity Party, which as part of the center-left bloc in the 2022 election.

Sa’ar, who joined the emergency government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together with senior members of the National Unity Party shortly after the Oct. 7 atrocities, said he would now seek to have his separate faction get its proper representation by being appointed to the War Cabinet.

Sa’ar will be joined by lawmakers Yifat Shasha-Biton, Ze’ev Elkin and Sharren Haskel, who joined the National Unity Party along with him.

Likud Party sources said it was unlikely that his announcement was coordinated with Netanyahu and that the issue of Sa’ar’s appointment had not yet been examined. However, sources in the Likud believe that Netanyahu’s response will be positive since Sa’ar is now providing a right-wing insurance certificate for the government during the war.

Sa’ar intends to re-establish New Hope as an independent party that will express, in his words, “the national-responsible worldview.” Gantz responded on X with the words “Thank you and good luck.”

“I respect my friends, the representatives of the National Unity Party in the War Cabinet,” said Sa’ar, referring to Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot, “but unfortunately they do not express the voice, positions and emphases that I would have brought. Therefore, on your behalf, I express here our demand to join the War Cabinet and be part of the influence on policy.”

The comments were made during a party event with activists to conclude the election campaign for leadership positions in local authorities.

Sa’ar’s dramatic move has been brewing with him for many long months. The dispute, he stressed to his partners just before the statement on Tuesday evening, comes against an ideological background.

The question now is whether Sa’ar sees an early election in the offing. New Hope sources said his decision to break with Gantz was not coordinated with Likud and that he did not intend to join his former party, where he was a bitter rival to Netanyahu, but rather to build an alternative party that would lead the right.

A source in the War Cabinet said that adding another member to the forum would not be simple from a coalition perspective, since there are similar requests for other parties. “How will Sa’ar get in when [Finance Minister and Religious Zionism leader] Bezalel Smotrich remains outside?” one source asked rhetorically.

Sources close to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Tuesday night that if Netanyahu acquiesces to Sa’ar’s request to join the War Cabinet, the Otzma Yehudit Party leader would also demand a spot.

Sa’ar certainly hopes that his sharp break from Gantz’s and Eizenkot’s arms will work in his favor in the memory of right-wing voters. Since the current war broke out, Sa’ar has tried to show more proximity to the right, blurring his alliance with the anti-Netanyahu camp from the previous year—during which he took an active part in the protests against judicial reform—and has even made sure to differentiate himself from Gantz.

Scattered signs over the weekend

Last Friday, in an interview with Sa’ar that was published in Israel Hayom, he criticized his party (and government) partners on how they conducted the military campaign. “We must return to the drawing board and do things differently,” the minister said.

In the interview, Sa’ar was asked whether it was possible to declare the death of the National Unity Party, and he replied: “I will not do that because I did not plan to do so. In the future, every party will have to make decisions about its future path. I cannot deny that in the current situation, where the central issue is political and security issues, there are gaps between us from time to time.”

Regarding a possible return to Likud, Sa’ar said the following: “No. I left Likud on December 8, 2020. Everything I said then is even more true today. New Hope is a national-statist right-wing party, expressing the values of Likud as they were during the time of [Prime Ministers] Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, and I will continue to lead it in this way.”

The Knesset House Committee will convene on Wednesday, after the budget vote, to approve New Hope’s split from the National Unity Party.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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