Likud's legal council declared late Wednesday that elections for the party's Knesset list and for its new chairperson would be conducted simultaneously, accepting an appeal filed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both votes are scheduled to take place on December 31.
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Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said following the announcement that he would bow out of the race for the Likud leadership, while MK Danny Danon stated that he was still in the running.
"The Likud legal council's decision is a game changer, and it pushes me out of an impossible, simultaneous two-front candidacy," Feiglin said. "I do not intend to drag the party into more legal proceedings before the general election. In this fateful hour it is our duty to unite and keep the Likud in power. This time I intend only to compete for a Knesset seat, and I'm sure that I will receive widespread support in putting the Likud and the nationalist camp back on track."
"In future primaries," said Feiglin, "I will come back and compete to lead the party and the country."
Meanwhile, MK Danny Danon stated that he would continue his bid for the Likud party chair, despite Feiglin's withdrawal from the race. "I will continue the fight to return the Likud to its rightful path. On December 31, party members will go to the polls and decide if the party to the path it has followed since the state was founded – the path of the right. Democratic values and tradition will continue to guide us, and distinguish us from those parties for which democracy has become a dirty word," said Feiglin.
Netanyahu's campaign staff for the primary said it "welcome[s] the decision, which takes into account the good of the Likud and confirms the overwhelming support among Likud members for Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to be done with the primaries as soon as possible and stand united for the general election. These recent events highlight even more the need for a large, strong Likud to face the left."
Officials close to Netanyahu have said that the prime minister's reason for holding the two party votes simultaneously was due to financial concerns, as such a move would save the millions of shekels necessary for holding two separate elections.
The move has political significance as well, as many party officials believe that holding the two elections simultaneously gives Netanyahu a better chance of retaining the party's leadership. "Voters supporting Feiglin's and Danon's campaigns are mostly organized groups that are easily sent to the voting booths on election day. Having both elctions on one day would send tens of thousands of other voters to the ballot box – most of them Netanyahu supporters," said one party official.