Israel Election: Four Winners and Four Losers of the Likud Primary Vote

As Israel's largest political party gears up for the November 1 election, here are key takeaways from the primary vote

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Political posters in Jerusalem, ahead of the Likud primary election.
Political posters in Jerusalem, ahead of the Likud primary election.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
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Haaretz

Tens of thousands of Likud members voted on Wednesday in the primary election that decided who will lead Israel's largest party ahead of the November 1 general election – the country's fifth in fewer than four years.

While most recent polls show that the Likud-led bloc of parties that support Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister is short of a Knesset majority, the party will most likely remain the parliament's largest, with around 35 projected seats.

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The final results released on Thursday show a number of veteran lawmakers pushed out of the Likud list, while a number of others made substantial gains, rewriting the power dynamics in the party ahead of the next election.

The final list may still change slightly, assuming party leader Netanyahu decides to use his power to place his own candidates in five reserved spots, as he has done in previous election cycles.

Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the Likud vote.

Winners

Yariv Levin

Former Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin came out on top, taking the number two spot behind party leader and confidant Netanyahu. A Netanyahu loyalist who has been critical of the Israeli justice system, Levin has served as minister of security, tourism and immigration, and enjoys almost wall-to-wall support in the party.

His rise to the second position within the party marks an ascent from his already high ranking as number five on the Likud electoral list in 2021.

Netanyahu with Levin (right) and Galant, two of the big winners of the Likud primary election.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Eli Cohen

One of the biggest winners is 49-year-old Eli Cohen, an accountant-turned-politician who first entered politics as part of the Kulanu party in 2015 before switching to the Likud four years later.

A former economy and intelligence minister under Netanyahu, Cohen has been harshly critical of the Bennett-Lapid government’s handing of economic issues, with the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper reporting that he would like to retake control of the economy portfolio if back in power.

He rose to the third position on the Likud list after coming in at eleventh last year.

Yoav Gallant

Following Cohen is Yoav Gallant, who rose to the fourth spot on the list from sixth place in 2021.

Gallant, a former commander of the IDF Southern Command whose appointment as IDF Chief of Staff was cancelled by then-Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2011 due to allegations that he had seized public lands near his home in Moshav Amikam in northern Israel, Gallant entered politics as part of the Kulanu party in 2015 before joining Likud in 2018. He has served as a minister at the construction, immigration and education ministries.

David Amsalem

Coming in fifth on the list is David Amsalem, up eleven places from the number sixteen spot last year.

A former communications minister, as well as minister for cyber and national digital matters, he has served as coalition whip and is a harsh critic of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. He has been accused of incitement for comments such as his 2017 statement that “we need to foment tremendous revolutions. Also by force.”

Losers

Yuli Edelstein

Yuli Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker who also served as health minister during the beginning of the pandemic, dropped from number two on the Likud list in previous election cycles down to 16.

Edelstein has finished first in the primary more than once but most recently had been seen as very likely to take a hit in the primary, after announcing his intention to challenge Netanyahu, before backing down. He drew a lot of fire from Netanyahu’s many supporters in the movement. He has also served as immigration and diaspora minister.

A poster asking voters to pick Gila Gamliel, ahead of the primary election.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Gila Gamliel

Gila Gamliel, another former minister, has the 27th spot on the party's list, after coming in eighth in 2021, making it likely that she will just scrape into the Knesset following the upcoming election.

The veteran lawmaker, who first entered the Knesset nearly two decades ago, hid the fact that she violated lockdown restrictions and visited a synagogue on Yom Kippur from Health Ministry officials in 2020, while serving as environmental protection minister.

Gilad Sharon

Gilad Sharon, son of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had hoped to start a political career but didn't get enough votes in Wednesday's primary election to secure a realistic shot, leaving him out of the top 40.

Orly Levy-Abekasis

A former Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker and a former minister who went on to form her own party before joining Labor and, ultimately, Likud. Last year, Orly Levy-Abekasis ran at the 26th spot on the Likud list – a spot reserved for Netanyahu's pick of a candidate.

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