Associates close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed satisfaction Wednesday with the outcome of the Likud primary elections, which took place a day earlier. The results: Netanyahu raked in 77 percent of the votes, while his main rival for party chairmanship, head of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction Moshe Feiglin, received 23 percent.
The Feiglin camp also said it was happy with the results, saying he managed to win more votes than in the last primary elections in 2007. They also pointed out that Feiglin gained support in many communities outside of Judea and Samaria.
At his victory speech Tuesday night at the Exhibition Grounds in Tel Aviv, the prime minister denied that he intends to call for early general elections, saying, “There is still time until elections.” Despite Netanyahu’s claims, some politicians still expect he will eventually change his mind. Among the issues raised is the 2013 national budget that needs to be approved during an election year, which seems unlikely to happen at the moment. A source close to the prime minister vehemently denied his intention to go to early elections of his own volition, saying “even though he isn’t afraid of elections and is prepared for them following the primaries.”
A source close to Feiglin said the primaries proved that the Jewish Leadership faction was strong, and it had the power to influence the Likud’s list for Knesset candidates.
The Likud primaries have come to an end, while results of elections for local party branch councils and Central Committee members were to be published Thursday. But another party battle is slated to take place in three months, this time to choose who will fill the party’s senior positions. Two candidates are expected to vie for the position of Likud Bureau Chairman: Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein and his deputy Ayoob Kara. Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz and MK Miri Regev are expected to contend for the chairmanship of the party secretariat. Finally, Moshe Kahlon, minister of communications and minister of welfare and social Services, was expected to ask to be re-elected as chairman of the central committee. There are currently no other candidates for the position. Meanwhile, MK Danny Danon will run for the position of party council president, in order to prevent Independence party members, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, from being included on the Likud list for the Knesset.
The main concern for Netanyahu, however, is that some will use the party convention in April, in which changes to the party constitution can be made with a standard majority vote, in order to restore the power to choose the Knesset list to the central committee. In the past, when the power was in the hands of the central committee, irregularities and suspicions of corruption were prevalent, leading Netanyahu to move to absolve the central committee of authority and give it to all Likud party voters.