Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a “huge” victory Friday, after winning a leadership primary that ensures he will lead his right-wing Likud party into a March general election.
The Zionist entity’s longest-serving premier, who faces a corruption indictment and a third general election in 12 months, was expected to beat rival Gideon Saar but the convincing margin of victory strengthened his position in the party he has dominated for 20 years.
With all votes counted, the Likud announced that Netanyahu had secured 72.5 percent, with Saar winning 27.5 percent.
“A huge win! Thank you to Likud members for their trust, support and love,” Netanyahu tweeted.
“With God’s and your help, I will lead the Likud to a big victory in the upcoming election and we will continue to lead the State of Israel to unprecedented achievements,” he added.
Most media commentators had predicted a Netanyahu victory but its scale made banner headlines.
“Netanyahu, big time,” said Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling daily.
State radio described it as a “landslide” victory for Netanyahu.
The left-wing Haaretz newspaper described it as a battle between the “rational expediency” of Saar supporters and the “tribal loyalty” of the Netanyahu camp.
It noted the historic reluctance of Likud members to depose a sitting leader.
“Since 1948, the Labor Party has replaced its leader 17 times,” it said. “The Likud has had only four leaders since Israel’s inception, and only two since 1995.
“Netanyahu has led the party for the past 14 years consecutively, and for two decades altogether. Younger Likudniks have never known their party without Netanyahu at its helm.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to give a victory address at 11:00 am (0900 GMT).
Around 57,000 Likud members voted on Thursday — a little less than 50 percent of those eligible.
Saar, a former minister seen as to the right of Netanyahu, campaigned on the basis that the leader was no longer able to win elections after deadlocked polls in April and September.
“I am content with my decision to have stood. Those who are unwilling to take a risk for what they believe in will never succeed,” Saar tweeted.
“My colleagues and I will stand behind (Netanyahu) in campaigning for the Likud’s success,” he added.