Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consolidated his leadership of the conservative Likud party, defeating his former minister and opponent, Gideon Sa’ar, by a wide margin in the primaries.
The final result of the internal vote, which had a 49 percent turnout, was that Netanyahu won 72.5 percent of the votes, compared to 27.5 percent for Sa’ar, reported the Times of Israel.
“This is a huge victory! Thank you Likud members for your trust, support and love,” tweeted Netanyahu—who has led the right-wing party since 2005—promising to “lead Likud to a great victory in the upcoming [national] elections” on March 2.
Sa’ar, meanwhile, said he would back Netanyahu, and defended his decision to run for office. “The contest was vital to the Likud and its democratic character,” he said.
“My decision to run was right and necessary. Whoever isn’t prepared to take a chance for the path he believes in, will never win,” Sa’ar added.
Netanyahu’s crushing victory not only showed that the prime minister still has strong support within the party, but also constitutes a possible boost for the 2020 elections, said Times of Israel analyst and Editor-in-Chief David Horowitz.
Last month, Netanyahu was accused by the prosecution of bribery, fraud, and abuse of trust, charges which the Likud leader argues are the result of a “witch-hunt” instigated by the police, legal establishment, and the media.
The controversial accusations against the leader came at a time when Israel is holding its third national elections—in less than a year—after Netanyahu and his main opponent, Benny Gantz, failed to agree on a coalition government in the first two elections, Euronews reported.