PM Netanyahu Wins Leadership Race Against Challenger Danny Danon

Settlers seek to get back at Defense Minister Ya'alon in 'organized campaign to take him out.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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MK Danny Danon.
MK Danny Danon.
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Member of Knesset Danny Danon conceded the race for Likud leadership to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just before midnight last night after roughly 55 percent of the 96,651 registered Likud voters cast their ballots in the party primary. Since Netanyahu was a shoe in, most of the tension was centered on the party slate, with various power brokers making deals to boost certain candidates and hurt others.

The day was characterized by a veritable “hit list” of Knesset members and current government ministers.

MK Haim Katz, one of the biggest Likud power brokers, split his deal up again and circulated a few different candidate lists. According to voter forms that were connected to Katz’s deals, he supported two candidates for the number one spot: ministers Gilad Erdan and Yisrael Katz, and simply ignored the rivalry between them.

Katz also supported head of the Israel Airports Authority, Pinhas Idan, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and MK Miri Regev. Party officials believe that Edelstein and Regev are among the biggest winners of the primary, and will likely be win high spots on the list. “The Knesset speaker is likely to be one of the biggest winners in the struggle between Katz and Erdan for the number one spot. Voters from each camp were split between the two, but there’s a consensus behind Edelstein. Miri Regev is also considered a strong candidate,” said a senior Likud official.

One of the candidates who faced difficulties in the voting was Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, with at least four settlements targeting him. Many registered voters from the settlements, who most likely won’t vote Likud on election day, decided to get even with Ya’alon for actions he took against them.

“Some people expect that the defense minister won’t adhere to the law, and if someone sets up a caravan, throws stones at soldiers or punctures tires – they want the defense minister to ignore it,” said Ya’alon, protected by numerous bodyguards, while touring the polling booths yesterday. As he wandered around the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds where the primaries were held, passersby shouted at him: “What about the Itzhar yeshiva? What about the building in Samaria?”

“It’s an organized campaign to take him out,” said one Likud official.

How effective was the campaign? It’s unclear. Ya’alon confidants believe that he made the top 10 on the Likud slate.

Regev was convinced that she would have a good showing today, but early this morning she learned of a deal that was liable to harm her chances. “After the Knesset channel published a poll that determined I’d be the first woman in the Likud, I started to hear rumors about them trying to take me down,” she said.

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