Netanyahu Asks Likud to Delay Internal Party Elections

'I am not afraid of elections, there are just more important things to deal with right now,' PM tells Likud.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Likud members on Tuesday to accept his request to delay the internal elections in the Likud party, which he heads, saying that there were more important things to deal with at the moment.

"I am not afraid of elections," Netanyahu told over 150 Likud members in Ashkelon, "there are just more important things to deal with at this time. I am just asking for a delay."

The vote regarding Netanyahu's request has been scheduled to take place on Thursday. If the prime minister's request is denied, the internal elections will take place immediately.

Netanyahu needs 1,500 registered Likud members to vote in order to obtain a two-thirds majority and retain the party leadership. His major opponent is Moshe Feiglin.

Party bylaws state that new members are eligible to vote for party institutions only 16 months after receiving membership.

Ahead of the elections, Netanyahu and his supporters have been making visible efforts to gain as many votes as possible. On Monday, the prime minister met with Gilad Arden, who is one of his strongest objectors within the Likud, after which Arden said he did not intend to interfere in the elections.

Two weeks ago, in another bid to delay the elections, Netanyahu discreetly sent an envoy on his behalf to speak with Feiglin associates in a bid to reach an agreement over a ballot date.

Feiglin's faction seeks immediate elections as required by the Likud charter. Netanyahu has suggested that elections be held in September, an offer the rival bloc is not likely to accept.

Two months ago, Netanyahu canceled just such a vote for fear of suffering a humiliating defeat.

The prime minister faces eight lawmakers and ministers working against his deferral initiative, including Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom, minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee.