Gideon Saar, senior cabinet minister and a rising star in the Likud firmament, announced he would resign his ministerial portfolio and Knesset seat after the High Holidays. It was an announcement that took Israeli politicos totally by surprise. He described his departure from the political scene as a “break.” Speculation runs rampant about what is behind the announcement.
Most reports point to his rising disenchantment with his former mentor, Bibi Netanyahu, who both helped his rise and then just as quickly turned on him and shut him out of the Likud inner sanctum. Much of the rancor can be traced to Saar’s decision to support Reuven Rivlin’s successful presidential candidacy (at one time Rivlin too was a Netanyahu intimate). Bibi opposed Rivlin’s candidacy for no clear reason. But they say cherche la femme and Sara Netanyahu may’ve taken a disliking to him–she has definitive control of major government appointments. At any rate, Bibi brooks no opposition. Disciples and followers must follow and never lead. Anyone who breaks from the circle is placed in herem, or in English terms, the deep freeze.
Conventional thinking says that Saar has had enough of the outrageous sleights he’s received at Bibi’s hands. He’s newly married, wants to spend more time with his wife, perhaps start a family. He may also intend to join up with another Likud rebel, Moshe Kahlon, who also was tossed out in the cold by Bibi, being seen by him as another potential rival. In the next elections, it’s conceivable that the two would create a formidable moderate-right alternative to the hard-right politics of the New Likud.
One wonders what will happen after Bibi. He can continue to lead for some time. But there comes a time when every politician must step down. One wonders whether the Likud can remain a coherent political entity after the glue Bibi applied to hold it together, evaporates. That’s where rivals like Kahlon, Saar, Danny Danon, come in. Will Likud splinter into farther-right and soft-right sects? Or will another strongman come along to ride herd over the disparate egos and ambitions of the younger generation of Likudnik wannabes.
Israeli political conspiracist, Eldad Yaniv, has a completely different explanation, whose accuracy I’ve confirmed:
אחת הסיבות להודעת גדעון סער: תחקיר גדול שמוסף הארץ עמל עליו בשבועות האחרונים.
— Eldad Yaniv (@EldadYaniv) September 17, 2014
“One of the reasons for Saar’s announcement: major investigation which Haaretz has labored over for the past few weeks.”
This takes us in an entirely different direction. My Israeli source has confirmed that a part of this investigation involves multiple Saar sexual scandals, which I’ve recounted here in some detail. This Walla report confirms a Haaretz story is in the works, which will review the circumstances of an alleged affair with a Knesset co-worker.
A few months ago, Saar web an attractive TV newscaster, Geula Even. This was after he’d abandoned his first wife (as had Even her first husband), presumably as a result of the affair with the woman who became his second. After wedding Even, the rumor mill died down somewhat. But apparently Haaretz has the goods on him. Given his being on the outs with Bibi and the fact that such a scandal might lead to his forced resignation, he presumably felt discretion was the better part of valor. When/If the scandal hits, he will be out of political life. That will defuse some of the dynamite. In the year or two before the next elections, Saar is probably hoping memories will fade and he can enter the next election cycle with a clean slate.
Sexual indiscretions and even predation seem to be activities Israelis will forgive in their politicians. Though when victims complain of rape, even that goes too far for forgiveness: witness Moshe Katsav. It remains to be seen whether the Haaretz expose will delve into the former or latter sorts of charges.
What I want to know is who’s talking to Haaretz? My money is on Bibi himself or one of his consiglieres. But let’s not discount the jilted first wife.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.