Two Knesset members said today they will join the newest political party which was formed by Gideon Sa’ar, who broke from the Likud party last night.
Polls already predict that the New Hope party will gather the third highest number of votes. Sa’ar would draw votes from every mainstream party including Likud, Yamina, Blue and White and Yesh Atid.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, from the Derech Eretz faction, said they will join Sa’ar in a bid to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sa’ar’s former political mentor. Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen announced that he will also join the party.
Sa’ar had several meetings today with other politicians, among them Likud members, including Yifat Shasha-Biton who has become a household name in recent months as chair of the Knesset Coronavirus Committee, known for challenging health officials and Cabinet decisions and drawing criticism from Likud officials.
Analysts are also saying that the party’s success depends on whether former army chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, joins the list, presumably as Sa’ar’s No. 2.
Though new elections may be imminent, they are not yet certain as the Knesset must still vote three more times on a measure to dissolve the current government. Nevertheless, an early poll found that New Hope would be the third largest party in the Knesset if elections were held today.
New Hope appears to be shaping up to be a slightly right of center party, taking seats from Likud and Blue and White and even opposition parties Yamina and Yesh Atid.
The Panels Politics poll, conducted on behalf of 103FM, gives Likud 25 seats, Yamina 19, New Hope 17, Yesh Atid 14, the Joint List 11, Shas 9, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beytenu 7, Blue and White 6, and Meretz 5. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4%.
Likud said that Sa’ar decided to leave the party because he lost to Netanyahu in the Likud leadership race a year ago.
Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yamina party, said Israel has become obsessed with "Yes Bibi or no Bibi," using Netanyahu's nickname.
"I did not come to politics for this," he said. "Parties are not formed on 'Yes Bibi or no Bibi.' I came to politics as a mission to promote my ideals."
In announcing his decision, Sa’ar said Likud has become a “tool for the personal interests of the person in charge,” and “a cult of personality” around Netanyahu.
“Likud has changed its character dramatically in recent years. I can no longer support the Netanyahu-led government and be a member of Likud. Today Israel needs unity and stability — Netanyahu cannot offer either. Replacing Netanyahu is the order of the hour.”
A rightwinger, Sa'ar said he would unite the Israeli people.
“I know Israel’s security and social challenges,” he said. “I can unite Israel and shape it for the future.”
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS