Likud Growing Restless

Netanyahu Losing Likud Support, Party Sources Tell Haaretz

Upcoming election of Likud's governing institutions likely to make party more right-wing and more hostile to the prime minister.

Next Sunday’s election of the Likud’s governing institutions is likely to make the party’s institutions more right-wing and more hostile to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“As it appears at the moment, Netanyahu has lost [control of] the governing institutions,” a senior Likud source told Haaretz. “He knows well that today’s Likud is already not in his pocket. Its positions have moved to the right, and not just on diplomatic issues. And the link-up with [Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman in the January Knesset election], which did not prove itself, engendered a lot of hatred of Netanyahu.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is expected to be elected chairman of the Likud party conference, and in all probability will also be chosen chairman of the party’s central committee, a post currently filled by former Communications and Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon. Fellow hawk Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin is considered the leading contender for chairmanship of the party bureau − the entity that sets the party’s ideology.

“Netanyahu has come to grips with the results,” a leading party figure said on Monday. “He has decided to withdraw his [own] candidacy as chairman of the party’s central committee, which he badly wanted, to avoid being humiliated in the vote and losing to Danon.”

Transportation Ministry Yisrael Katz, the current chairman of the party’s secretariat, the entity that formally selects the party’s director general and oversees the appointment of party staff, is fighting to keep that job in the face of a challenge from MK Miri Regev.

Although there are others running against him, if Danon is successful in his bid it would give him both prestige and key influence in the appointment of a new party director general, as well as any potential formal merger with Yisrael Beiteinu and the party’s support for Netanyahu’s policy initiatives.

The leadership election process begins on Tuesday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, with the selection of the chairman of the party convention. Selection of the chairman of the party’s central committee and the heads of other Likud governing bodies is scheduled for Sunday.