Barak: Likud Still Far-right, Despite Feiglin Demotion

Labor chair says his party still centrist; Likud bumps far-rightist Feiglin down to 36th on party ticket.

Labor Chairman Ehud Barak declared late Thursday that Likud remains a far-right party, despite having demoted controversial figure Moshe Feiglin on its Knesset line-up.

"We know there is still a far-right party, and we have remained in the center," Army Radio quoted Barak, who is also defense minister, as saying of Likud.

The Likud elections committee earlier Thursday moved Feiglin from the 20th place on the Knesset list to 36th, despite his strong showing at this week's party primary.

Barak added: "We have the best team of all the parties. We see the winds of change, but this is no reason to become euphoric." He made the comments at a Labor meeting in Tel Aviv.

The Likud move was seen as a triumph for party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who was concerned that the success of his archrival Feiglin and his supporters in the primary would foil his effort to present his right-of-center party as more centrist for the election.

The committee accepted a petition to bump Feiglin to a lower slot submitted by Ophir Akunis, an ally to party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. Akunis, who was 28th on the list, argued that since female candidates fared relatively well, places secured for women on the ticket should be allocated to regional representatives.

As a result Feiglin, who ran on the national ticket, was effectively pushed down 16 places.

At first Feiglin said he would appeal the decision and even petition the High Court of Justice. But a few hours later he changed his tack and said "I have faith only in Likud voters, who will vote for me wherever I contend."

Feiglin said "this is a political committee that caved under Netanyahu's pressure. Anyone with eyes in his head can see Netanyahu acting with tricks and shtiks against the Likud members' desire."

Polls show Likud winning about 35 seats in the election, leaving Feiglin, who opposes peace talks with the Palestinians, encourages non-Jews to leave the country and advocates recapturing the Gaza Strip, out of the Knesset.

The decision also pushes down former Likud rebels Michael Ratzon (from 24th slot to 37th) and Ehud Yatom (from 29th slot to 38th). Ironically, among the regional candidates whom the decision moves up on the party list are Feiglin supporters Kati Sheetrit and Boaz Haetzni.

Ratzon also attacked the decision moving him down the list. "It's a violation of democracy," he said.

Netanyahu Thursday briefed the new candidates about "campaign discipline." He asked them to stay on message during encounters with the media. The core of the message, which his advisers will disseminate during the election campaign, will be that Tzipi Livni is unreliable, the country needs experienced leadership, and Netanyahu will again save the economy.