Yuli Edelstein challenges Netanyahu for Likud leadership

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Yuli Edelstein speaking in Jerusalem, June 6, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

By Gil Tanenbaum, TPS

Former Israeli Cabinet Minister and Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein has declared his intention to challenge Binyamin Netanyahu for the leadership of Israel’s Likud Party. He made the announcement this evening, Monday, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News.

Edelstein said that he hopes to push for new elections for the Likud leadership within the next few months. Israeli parties generally require new elections for their leadership after an election loss.

Netanyahu was Israel’s longest serving prime minister, both in total years and in consecutive years. He lost his first bid for reelection in 1999, after serving a shortened three year first term. Netanyahu returned to office in 2009, was elected to three terms, including one shortened term of just two years, serving as prime minister for more than 12 consecutive years. He was voted out of office last June when the Knesset elected its current coalition government.

Edelstein slammed Netanyahu saying that the Likud could never win an election again as long as he continues as the party’s leader.

In the interview, Edelstein pointed out that while the Likud won the most seats in the Knesset in each of the four elections held between April 2019 and April 2021 and it could have formed a new coalition after any of these elections if it were not for the personal animosity held towards Netanyahu by so many. There are also many who will not support a government led by someone under criminal indictment, as Netanyahu currently is.

Three parties in the current Knesset, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu and Gidon Sa’ar’s New Hope would all have joined a Likud led government, but only without Netanyahu serving as the prime minister.

“We have held elections four times, four times the Likud has been the largest faction in the Knesset, and four times we have failed to form a national government headed by the Likud,” Edelstein told Channel 12 said. “We will remain in the opposition for many years … Netanyahu should be replaced.”

“The real choice of Likud members will not be between me and Binyamin Netanyahu, it will be between me and Lapid,” he added. “Because with Binyamin Netanyahu we failed four times at forming the government.”

“Four times we held elections, four times the Likud so the largest faction in the gap in the Knesset, and four times we were not able to put together a national government headed by the Likud. So if we do not do serious soul-searching at home,” said Edelstein, lamenting that the Likud will continue as an opposition party for many years as long as it is led by Netanyahu.

Edelstein also condemned the Bennett government saying, “The current government simply dangerous for Israel, is run by Meretz and the Islamic Movement, for no reason.”

Yuli Edelstein, 63, was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. He came to Israel at the age of 29. Edelstein has been a member of the Knesset for 22 of the last 25 years, originally serving with the Yisrael B’Aliyah Russian immigrant party. That party merged with the Likud after the election of 2003 and he has been in the Likud ever since.

Edelstein served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption (1996 – 1999), Minister of Information & Diaspora Affairs, (2009 –2013) and Minister of Health (2020–2021). He served as speaker of the Knesset from 2013 – 2020.