Netanyahu is re-elected leader of Israeli opposition Likud. His first actions as victor provoke sharp criticism
As expected, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu won an overwhelming 73% of his party’s support, compared with the nationalist Moshe Feiglin’s 23% and Danny Danin’s 3.5%. The turnout was 40% of the registered 95,000 members, a considerable feat in a midsummer poll.
But when it came to his victory announcement – “The Likud’s journey back to the Prime Minister’s Office has begun -” it transpired that the venue had been shifted and bouncers instructed to keep Feiglin and his supporters out of the hall. Furthermore, media correspondents were prevented from interviewing Feiglin, now head of a faction that represents a quarter of Likud. Netanyahu denied issuing these orders.
The absence of Netanyahu’s foremost rival, former foreign minister Silvan Shalom, hung uneasily over the vote. His loyalists protested Netanyahu’s decision to hold a snap leadership primary by boycotting it.
debkafile notes: Netanyahu’s conduct marred his victory in three ways:
1. It was undemocratic. He had the option of ousting the ultra-right Feiglin and supporters before the primary by a vote. This would have split the party. But he preferred to silence their leader while keeping their numbers for when he challenges prime minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima and Ehud Barak’s Labor in the next general election.
2. The Shalom faction’s boycott had previously divided Likud against Netanyahu and undercut his claim of massive support. The re-elected Likud leader showed up as inept in dealing with opposition within his party. How will he cope as prime minister on the national level?
3. Netanyahu has so far not laid out a program on such vital matters as security, bridging the vast gap between rich and poor, education, medical care and a host of other long-neglected issues plaguing Israeli society. Even his victory speech gave no clues.
This deficiency is marked equally in the leaders of Kadima and Labor. None of the heads of the three main national parties trouble to share their worldviews with the public.