By BEN SALES
(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won his party’s leadership primary with 71.5 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll.
A tweet by Direct Polls, an Israeli firm, showed challenger Gideon Saar with 28.5 percent.The poll had a margin of error of 3.2 percent, and turnout for the primary stood at around 50 percent.
אחרי הדיוק המושלם במדגם הבחירות לראשות מפלגת העבודה בשנה האחרונה, נכנסים שוב לשדה המוקשים המפלגתי, והפעם עם מדגם הבחירות לראשות תנועת הליכוד, עם 758 נדגמים ייחודיים וסטיית תקן של 3.2%.
— Direct Polls (@Direct_Polls) December 26, 2019
Saar, a popular Likud stalwart and former interior minister, had aimed to dethrone Netanyahu after the prime minister was twice unable to form a government following consecutive rounds of elections this year. Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party, was also unable to assemble a governing coalition.
Netanyahu is also under indictment for fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He has been his right-wing party’s leader for a total of 20 years, including the past 14 years.
Israel will hold its third round of elections in less than a year on March 2.