Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a challenge to his leadership of the Likud party on Thursday (December 26) as it held leadership primaries in the run-up to a national election-- Israel's third in less than a year.
More than 100 thousand Likud members are eligible to vote in the primary.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LIKUD PARTY MEMBER, LEON RIBINIK, SAYING: "I came here to vote today, I'm going to vote for the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.'' Bibi has led the centre-right party for the past 14 years and is widely tipped to retain the leadership.
But his challenger, former education and interior minister Gideon Saar, has said that the party is unlikely to regain power in the March election unless Netanyahu steps aside.
(SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) GIDEON SAAR, CHALLENGER OF PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU IN LIKUD PARTY PRIMARIES, SAYING: "I feel a great awakening (of voters) in the field, people understand that today there is a need for a change and God willing, together we will make this change today.
Thank you very much." In November, Netanyahu was charged with corruption in three criminal cases and he has failed-- twice to form a government in the wake of two inconclusive national ballots, held in April and September.
But he's largely dismissed Saar's challenge.