Accusing Benjamin Netanyahu of using the Likud party for "personal interests", senior Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar announced on Tuesday that he was quitting the party and forming a new one.
In a press conference broadcast live on Israeli media and Twitter, Sa'ar confirmed that he could not remain in the Likud party because it became a tool in the hands of Netanyahu.
"The Likud has changed and became a tool serving the personal interests of its leader, including in his criminal trial," The Jerusalem Post reported Sa'ar stating on his move. "I can no longer support the government under Netanyahu and I can no longer be a member of Likud under his leadership."
He added: "I say with regret, as someone who saw him as the right leader to lead the country and served in senior roles in his governments, Israel needs unity and stability now and Netanyahu cannot provide either one."
Sa'ar declared that he would establish a new political party through which to run for the position of prime minister. According to The Jerusalem Post, he had been working on the new party as an option for months, but he only decided to go through with it a week ago.
His move came less than a week after the vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset was approved.
In December 2019, prior to the last Knesset elections, Sa'ar challenged Netanyahu in a Likud leadership primary, but he obtained only 27.5 per cent of the Likud votes compared with 72.5 per cent to Netanyahu.
Commenting on his departure, Netanyahu's spokesman announced: "Sa'ar is leaving because he was trounced in the primary and internal polls in Likud over the last few days and found that he would not make the party's top ten."
The spokesman, according to The Jerusalem Post, also expressed: "Sa'ar decided to abandon the right, hook up with [opposition leader Yair] Lapid and join the long list of politicians who abandoned the Likud and then completely collapsed politically."