Likud Primary / Anything Labor Can Do, Likud Can Do Worse

Labor's computer fiasco looks like minor glitch beside the amateurish, disorganized Likud primary.

On Monday, the Likud proved that anything Labor can do, it can do worse. The Labor Party's computer fiasco looks like a minor glitch beside the amateurish, disorganized, creepingly slow primary, with far too few polling stations, that Likud put on. The real victims were the voters, who had to wait in line for hours, sometimes deep into the chilly night, to cast their votes.

But party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is also in distress. Until a few days ago, it seemed as though he could do no wrong. But in Monday, as his panic grew, lest Moshe Feiglin's camp do well in the vote and the new stars he brought in do poorly, there were some who wondered: When Israel has to decide, for instance, on whether to attack Iran, will his nerves stand the strain?

If no further problems occurred in the wee hours of the morning, there will already be a Likud Knesset slate when we wake up, and everything will be clear: whether Netanyahu's recommended candidates made it, or whether his rivals bested him; whether Feiglin and his people are on the list, or whether fear that his presence would hurt the party's electoral chances led Likud members to vote against him; and whether Netanyahu's victory parade toward another stint in the Prime Minister's Office will continue or be halted.

On Monday afternoon, the following discussion took place between two voters at a polling station in Tel Aviv. "I greatly admire Feiglin," said one, "but I won't vote for him, because it will hurt us." To that, his comrade replied: "I actually will vote for him. What, is he less right-wing than Benny Begin?"

The television stations interviewed several voters who said openly that they would cast their ballots only for veteran party members, not for the newcomers who joined just for this election. Similar reports reached Netanyahu's office.

Early Monday evening, his staff conducted a situation assessment. Their conclusion was that because of the low voting rate thus far, Feiglin's chances were good, while those of Netanyahu's recommended candidates, such as Assaf Hefetz and Uzi Dayan, were poor. Netanyahu agonized, but finally decided: The primary will continue for another day, until this evening.

However, not all his people were comfortable with this decision: Some argued that it was undemocratic, that it would not withstand a petition to the High Court of Justice, that it broadcast panic. The deliberations continued until the judge who heads Likud's elections committee finally ruled: The voting will continue until 1 A.M., and then we'll see.

Something bad is happening to Israel's political parties: They cannot even hold a primary without falling on their faces. One party's computers crash, the other has too few of them.

But of course, nothing of the sort will ever happen to Shas or Yisrael Beiteinu.