Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a big win in the Likud primary Wednesday by ousting far-rightist Moshe Feiglin from the party ticket and finishing nine spots higher than a rival for the party’s leadership, Danny Danon.
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But right-winger Miri Regev’s fifth-place showing was impressive after she was the 14th Likud member on the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu slate for the 2013 election. Those two parties joined up in an electoral alliance that year.
The top five on the current Likud list are Netanyahu, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Regev.
Netanyahu and his associates have thus been quick to exploit Feiglin’s disaster and are presenting the Likud ticket as “moderate, balanced and representative,” even though the slate includes other hard-core rightists — not just Regev and Danon but also Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin.
“Contrary to predictions, we elected an excellent and balanced list, experienced and responsible, which will assist me in successfully leading the country,” Netanyahu said.
“This team represents all parts of the country. It contains people who have the right attitude, people sober and responsible on issues of defense and diplomacy and with a commitment to socioeconomic problems. This is an appropriate list for a governing party, one that will help us defeat the left headed by [Isaac] Herzog and [Tzipi] Livni.”
Surprisingly, MK Haim Katz, described in recent years as the party’s kingmaker, someone who could muster multitudes of voters, ended up in 17th place. This reflects the wane of deal-making in the party.
Katz gave his full support to Erdan, Edelstein, Regev and Yisrael Katz, but apparently there was no reciprocation. Cabinet members and other MKs such as Moshe Ya’alon, Yuval Steinitz, Ophir Akunis and Tzachi Hanegbi made their own deals without Haim Katz’s help.
Ya’alon worried about his showing because at least four settler groups had erased him from their lists. They consider him an enemy for trying to block their attempts to increase settlement construction and for his support for the army in its conflicts with settlers. Still, Ya’alon wound up in seventh place.
A former head of the Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter, previously an MK and cabinet member for the Kadima party, ended up in 20th place, which will probably put him in the Knesset. Since leaving Kadima, Dichter has been working hard at Likud branches around the country, attending party events and garnering popularity among the rank and file.
Another key candidate failed to win a spot, former deputy minister Michael Ratzon.
Meanwhile, Jackie Levi, the son of former Foreign Minister David Levi, captured the 18th spot on the list, as the representative of the Galilee region. Levi may find himself serving in the Knesset alongside his sister Orly Levi-Abekasis, who will be vying to return to the Knesset on the Yisrael Beiteinu ticket.
Another new face is Nava Boker, the widow of police officer Lior Boker who died in the 2010 Mount Carmel fire, though at number 25 she is unlikely to get into parliament. Former deputy minister Ayoob Kara wound up in the 24th slot, which is allotted to non-Jews.
The Likud primary campaign was cumbersome and embarrassing. The ruling party eschewed a computerized system, so tens of thousands of ballots were counted by hand. Using this method, the party could not even provide the final list 24 hours after balloting ended.
Thus Likud could only announce that the prime minister had defeated Danon by an “overwhelming majority” in the battle for the party’s leadership. Netanyahu also won sweeping approval for his demand to retain the appointing of two candidates for spots guaranteed to reach the Knesset — subject to approval by the party secretariat.
He is now expected to tweak the list based on these appointments. The expulsion of two religious MKs, including one woman, harms the party’s image among some voters and may send them over to Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi.
Likud officials are also concerned because their slate has only two women in spots guaranteed to reach the Knesset. On the other hand, having Dichter in the 20th spot releases Netanyahu from having to search for another former defense expert alongside Ya’alon.