Israel PM Netanyahu wins Likud party leadership race

WION Web Team Israel Dec 27, 2019, 08.47 AM(IST)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights a Hanukkah candle at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 22, 2019. Photograph:( AFP )

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Netanyahu's challenger Gideon Saar conceded defeat and said that he would now back Netanyahu in the March's election.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the leadership race in the Likud party confirming that he would lead the party in the March polls.

Likud party announced on Friday that Netanyahu had won 72.5 per cent of the votes against his rival Gideon Saar who managed just 27.5 per cent. 

After the victory, Netanyahu tweeted: "A huge win! Thank you to Likud members for their trust, support and love," adding, "With god and with your help, I will lead the Likud to a big victory in the upcoming elections and continue to lead the State of Israel to unprecedented achievements."

About 49 per cent of Likud's members voted had voted on Thursday. The internal party vote was seen as a test of Netanyahu's hold on power at a time of mounting difficulties. The Israeli prime minister faces trial on bribery and corruption charges with Israel involved in an unprecedented three elections in just a year.

Netanyahu's challenger Gideon Saar conceded defeat and took to Twitter saying that he would now back Netanyahu in the March's election.

"Congratulations to the prime minister on his victory in the primaries. My friends and I stand behind him in the campaign for the Likud's success in the elections," Saar said.

"Dealing with the Likud and its democratic character was immensely important. I am completely at ease with my decision to deal. It was the right decision. Those who are unwilling to take a risk for the way they believe - will never win," he added. Saar was Israel's education and interior minister under Netanyahu.

Previous elections held in April and September had Likud party deadlocked with the centrist Blue and White party with neither able to form a government. In April, Likud party's Benjamin Netanyahu so close to becoming the longest serving prime minister of Israel, however, his party failed to win enough votes. In September, the nation again voted but there was no clear winner.

On March 2, Israel will vote for the third time in its quest for a stable government.