Netanyahu Calls for Early Likud Primaries, Rejects Party Criticism

Sources close to Vice Prime Minister Shalom say the Likud strongman will object PM's move to schedule the party primaries on January 31, in less than two months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially announced Monday that he intends on moving up the Likud primaries to January 31.

“In addition to saving our party millions of shekels, it is important that we avoid entering an internal struggle, so that we can be free to tackle the big challenges we are facing,” Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting.

Benjamin Netanyahu - Olivier Fitoussi  - 05122011
Olivier Fitoussi

In recent days the Prime Minister conducted a series of consultations with advisers, and informed cabinet ministers that he intends to move up the party's primaries.

Sources close to Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom responded to the announcement by saying that the former foreign minister would fight the decision.

According to the Likud constitution, the party's internal elections are supposed to be held six months ahead of balloting for the Knesset. But the prime minister is seen as wanting to take advantage of his strong position in Likud, and win re-election as the party's leader now. Also, the party wants to be prepared for a situation in which a government partner moves to break-up the coalition. In addition, Likud members claim that early primaries will save millions of shekels.

In response to criticism voiced Sunday, claiming the move was illegal, Netanyahu said: “Our party is democratic, open, and transparent, anyone can throw his hat into the race.”

He added that “The Likud is a united political party. I spoke with all Likud MKs, last night, and am happy to report I received the support of many of them. The Likud is an organized and stable party, operating responsibly, and the Israeli people appreciate that.”

People close to Shalom said that he intends to fight Netanyahu’s decision through legal means. Shalom himself declined to comment on the subject. Members of Shalom’s faction said that primaries were intended to select an appropriate candidate close to the actual elections.

In addition to the possibility that Shalom will be running against Netanyahu, though he had yet to announce he is running, Moshe Feiglin will be running for the party leadership again.

Read this article in Hebrew: נתניהו דוחה את הביקורת על הקדמת הפריימריז: תנועתנו דמוקרטית ושקופה