What's Next for Netanyahu's Likud After the Primary

Does success in the primary list guarantee a ministerial role? What’s going to happen to Gideon Sa’ar? Does the Likud list have any significance within the party if Netanyahu has to step down?

Likud members on primary day in Rishon Letzion, Feb. 5, 2019.
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Does success in the primary list guarantee a ministerial role?

In general, the rank in the Likud list does have significance. The last time around, all of the top 10 people, with the exception of Benny Begin, served as ministers in the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu however is not beholden to the party list. He appointed Ayoub Kara to minister although he had placed 20th; Avi Dichter was made chairman of the foreign affairs and security committee from the 22nd place. Netanyahu could do so again, advancing his cronies such as Yuval Steinitz, Zeev Elkin or David Bitan (depending on the outcome of the police investigation into his affairs), irrespective of their ranking in the primary.

What’s going to happen to Gideon Sa’ar?

Gideon Sa’ar placed third in the Likud primary despite Netanyahu’s attempts to defame him. The prime minister may not be able to ignore him. If anything, snubbing Sa’ar and declining to name him to a ministry could bolster Sa’ar’s position as opposition leader within Likud to Netanyahu’s leadership.

Does the Likud list have any significance within the party if Netanyahu has to step down?

No. The order in the list has no meaning beyond reflecting the Likud members’ popularity on the day of the primary. It has no legal power vis-à-vis government appointments or inheriting the party leadership. If Netanyahu has to quit, the Likud constitution requires a special election for chairman, and anybody can run.

If Netanyahu has to quit midterm, how will the next prime minister be appointed?

There are three main scenarios by which the next prime minister could be appointed.

1. A candidate is chosen from among the Knesset members, subject to the president's approval. The basic law over how to form the government enables the Knesset to choose a representative from among their members, who can try to build a coalition in lieu of the prime minister who stepped down. In this scenario, the Likud list has zero significance, only agreements between the parties.

2. Israel has the possibility of so-called constructive votes of no confidence in the government; alongside the proposal to disband the Knesset, an alternative cabinet is proposed, including the names of the putative prime minister and ministers. If the proposal is approved, the new government would replace the outgoing one without elections.

3. Holding new elections.

Are additional changes expected on the Likud list?

Netanyahu sought and received the privilege to fill the 21st, 28th and 36th slots. These spots are relatively minor and of dubious value to attract big names outside the party. Likud officials believe the reserved spots are meant to diversify the list and to make it more attractive in light of the teaming up of other parties on the right and the dramatic linking up in the center. Another possibility, which is unlikely, is to place representatives of parties who probably won't pass the electoral threshold, such as Habayit Hayehudi or Kulanu.

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