03:24 GMT +310 December 2019
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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before voting in the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 29, 2019

    Top Contenders Who Could Replace Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister

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    Coalition talks between Netanyahu's Likud and his rival Benny Gantz' Blue and White party ended with yet another deadlock, ten days before the dissolvement of the Israeli parliament. Meanwhile, calls urging the prime minister to step down intensify with thousands gathering in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night calling on the premier to resign.

    Although the Prime Minister doesn't plan to relinquish power, Israeli media has been toying with the idea, discussing options for the day after.

    Options Within the Likud:

    Gideon Saar:

    Coming 5th in Likud's party list, Saar is remembered for initiating several social reforms including the extension of maternity leave for women and introducing paid sick days for parents who absent from work because of their children's sickness. He is also known for playing a pivotal role in increasing the budget dedicated to education, boosting salaries of teachers and handling the African asylum seekers' crisis with an iron fist by opening a Holot detention facility that despite criticism from various human rights groups, received praise from Israel's right-wing circles.

    But for Netanyahu's supporters he will always be remembered as a man who dared to challenge the premier when in 2014 he hampered Netanyahu's attempts to put an end to the institution of the Israeli presidency, and a man who called on the prime minister to step down following the attorney general's announcement to indict him.

    Chances to succeed Netanyahu: It was following these statements that Saar received a barrage of attacks from Netanyahu loyalists within the Likud. 

    Considered a traitor by some Netanyahu supporters, chances that he will be elected to lead the movement are low. The Israeli public doesn't seem to entrust him with the leadership either. According to a recent poll conducted by one of Israel's newspapers Maariv, Likud under Saar gets only 31 seats (out of 120 seat Israeli parliament), compared to 33 seats under Netanyahu. 

    Yuli Edelstein:

    A number one in Likud's party list and only second to Netanyahu himself, Edelstein is known for his tireless efforts to integrate immigrants from the former Soviet Union, helping them not only to find jobs and housing options but also orient themselves in their new environment. As the Knesset Speaker, he is renowned for spearheading a number of projects, including making the Israeli parliament "the greenest" in the world, as well as making it more accessible to people with disabilities and more transparent for ordinary citizens who are now able to get an immediate update on the Knesset's proceedings.

    Chances: Unlike Saar who has been vocal about his intentions to succeed Netanyahu, Edelstein has been holding his cards close to his chest. Despite the fact that Edelstein is considered loyal to the premier, reports suggest that he has been trying to gather the 61 signatures needed to ask the country's president Reuven Rivlin to task him with forming a government. When that failed he was allegedly playing with the idea to put his candidacy forward in the upcoming Likud primaries, but after realizing that the move could destroy his political career (competing with Netanyahu and Saar would be suicidal) he gave up on the idea, opting to head a team of Likud negotiators in an attempt to form a coalition.

    Tzahi Hanegbi:

    One of Likud's most experienced politicians, who during his more than 20 years in politics has filled a number of important posts, ranging from deputy foreign minister to the minister of justice and minister of intelligence and nuclear affairs. Hanegbi was the one who initiated the formation of a national authority that aimed at fighting road accidents, promoted reform of the fuel market and the pavement of the Trans-Israel Highway (highway 6).

    Yet, despite his achievements, Hanegbi hasn't been popular within his own party, landing on 14th place in the party list.

    Chances: Although he vowed loyalty to the premier, Hanegbi did express his intention to compete for the leadership of the Likud after Netanyahu leaves the political arena, indicating that he had no will to go head-to-head with Likud's current leader as long as he remained in power.

    Looking for a replacement?

    But Netanyahu doesn't show signs of giving up on his position that quickly. Yet, realizing that his political days are numbered, in the past he did mention names of people who could lead the country when he is gone. The catch is that they are not on Israel's political map. At least not at the moment.

    One such name is Yossi Cohen, the current head of Israel's foreign intelligence agency - the Mossad. Cohen is believed to have personally directed a January 2018 operation when Israeli spies snuck out thousands of nuclear files from Iran, paving the way for the US decision to pull out from its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic.

    Another name is Ron Dermer, Israel's current ambassador to the US. But the man, who's considered one of Netanyahu's close allies, shies away from politics, preferring to be in the background rather than basking in the glow of the spotlight, so chances that he will change his path are slim.

    Tags:
    prime minister, Israel, Yossi Cohen, Yuli Edelstein, Benjamin Netanyahu
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