Likud MK Dichter says he’ll challenge Netanyahu for party leadership

Likud MK Avi Dichter on Sunday said that he would run in the next party leadership primaries, even if ex-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks another term as party chief.

“I’ve said a number of times my intention is to run in the primaries for Likud leadership, and from there for prime minister,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

“One day, you will have the honor of interviewing Prime Minister Avi Dichter,” he said.

He said he would run in the next primaries, even against Netanyahu, who has led the party since 2005. Dichter is currently placed 9th on the Likud’s slate.

Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, has previously expressed his interest in becoming Likud leader and eventually premier, most recently in June following the swearing-in of the new government that unseated Netanyahu — who is now opposition leader — after 12 consecutive years in the Prime Minister’s Office.

But others in the party have called for internal elections to be put off for now.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party members a day after a new government was sworn in, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Likud MK Nir Barkat, who is seen as a top contender for the party’s leadership, called for leadership primaries to be delayed in June. But he also said he would run for Likud leader when Netanyahu steps down and vowed to win the race.

Former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, the party’s No. 2, has also announced his intention to challenge Netanyahu.

Netanyahu decisively won Likud primaries in 2019 when he defeated a challenge by former party minister Gideon Sa’ar. Sa’ar then left Likud in 2020 to start the New Hope party, which campaigned on not serving in a government under Netanyahu.

Likud has put off holding another round of primaries since then, amid political turmoil that saw four rounds of elections in two years.

An eight-party alliance, headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, ousted Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, in June, relegating Likud to the opposition for the first time since 2009.

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