The Likud Central Committee will meet next week to confirm its unequivocal support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as leader, the party said Friday, as the premier retreated from the idea of a snap leadership primary, an idea floated a day earlier and met with a challenge by rival Gideon Sa’ar.
The prime minister accepted the suggestion by MK Haim Katz that the Likud Central Committee will convene on Thursday and publicly back Netanyahu for prime minister in the coalition negotiations, declaring that Likud will only join a government presided over by Netanyahu, either for the full term or as part of a rotation.
There are now no immediate plans for a race to be held for the Likud leadership, the party indicated; Katz has proposed scheduling a primary for a year from now, but no final decision has yet been taken on that. Netanyahu easily won the last Likud leadership contest in 2014, defeating then-MK Danny Danon. A contest planned for 2016 was cancelled because there were no challengers to Netanyahu.
The walkback from the idea of a new leadership vote came after reports on Thursday suggested that several Likud ministers who had met with Netanyahu during the day warned him that he had little to gain but much to lose in holding a leadership primary.
Netanyahu had mulled a leadership vote, anticipating he would emerge as the clear winner, as a way of bolstering his status as the unchallenged leader of Likud, and signaling to other parties hoping for a coup, amid gridlock in forming a government, that there would be no mutiny against him.
It could also have promised him the leadership of the party until the end of the term of the 23rd Knesset — potentially as long as eight years away.