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Bittersweet victory for Israel’s Gideon Saar

Gideon Saar’s New Hope party garnered only six Knesset seats, but has managed to seriously destabilize the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gideon Saar, head of Israel's New Hope party, works at the party's headquarters, a day ahead of the election, Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2021.

He was as close as anyone could be to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He served as his Cabinet secretary and held Netanyahu’s hand throughout his last year in power before his 1999 defeat by Ehud Barak. He stayed by his side in the Likud and helped him rebuild the party in 2006 after the late Ariel Sharon split to form his own party. Over the years, he helped Netanyahu dismantle governments and alliances, and build coalitions. This week, Former Likud Minister Gideon Saar blocked Netanyahu’s reelection. The votes his New Hope party poached from the Likud in the March 23 elections deprived Netanyahu of the 61 Knesset seats he desperately needs to form a governing coalition.

Saar lost the battle, coming in at a disappointing six seats, but he has probably won the war. Short of a miracle, Netanyahu not only lacks sufficient support to form a government, on April 5 he must present himself in court for the start of the evidentiary stage in his corruption trial. This time, even this undisputed political genius will have a hard time surviving.

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