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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - OR YEHUDA, ISRAEL - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced his most serious threat from inside his right-wing Likud party in a decade Tuesday, as former minister Gideon Saar launched a leadership challenge.
Already facing a third general election in 12 months and a corruption indictment, Netanyahu will first seek to win a primary vote within his party on December 26.
"People want change," Saar said at a launch event on Monday evening in Or Yehuda, an Israeli town close to commercial capital Tel Aviv.
The 53-year-old with greying black hair and glasses has been a senior figure in the Likud for a decade and has held multiple ministries.
Netanyahu has long viewed him as a threat because he has repeatedly accused the prime minister of sidelining him from top appointments.
Last month, Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three corruption cases, each of which he strongly denies.
Saar called for the primaries shortly after.
General elections in April and September resulted in deadlock, meaning the country will again head to the polls on March 2.
"He (Netanyahu) has failed twice, but it is not because of the Likud's ideas," Saar said on Monday evening, calling for a "renaissance" of the Israeli right.
"If we do not make a change, we are getting close to a left-wing government," he warned.
"Only Saar can," his few hundred supporters supporters chanted.
Netanyahu, who also met with supporters Monday night in a series of events in central Israel, did not say anything about Saar's event and has largely refrained from publicly addressing his younger challenger.
Saar is perceived as being to the right of Netanyahu on many key issues, including relations with the Palestinians.
On Monday he praised the legacy of Netanyahu, in power continuously since 2009, but called on him to go further on judicial reforms and to apply Israeli sovereignty to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
He did not, however, mention the corruption indictment against Netanyahu. -AFP
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