Netanyahu easily wins Likud party primary to remain prime minister candidate

(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.

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.