Right of center dominate Likud primary, alongside moderates, religious right
Likud voters rewarded its 12 workhorse legislators in the opposition party primary which took place Monday, Dec. 8, by placing party whip Gideon Saar, Gilead Erdan and Reuven Rivlin in the top three slots. Of Binyamin Netanyahu’s new arrivals, only Benny Begin and former chief of staff Moshe Yaalon made it to the top ten in fourth and eighth places. Veteran MK Yuval Steinitz and Leah Ness were placed ninth and tenth.
This group of favorites holds that final status talks with Arab leaders, especially Palestinians, is untimely; Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip paved the way for the fundamentalist Palestinian Hamas and its missile offensive against Israel and was a blunder which must not be repeated on the West Bank.
Announcing the results, Netanyahu said Likud’s team was the best suited for government of any other party and promised solutions for the country’s three predicaments: the world economic crisis which hangs over the Israeli worker and his savings, a security crisis which renews itself day by day and a political-diplomatic crisis. A Likud government, he promised, would continue to pursue diplomacy “combined with accelerated economic development.”
Netanyahu has said he advocates a joint economic effort to bring prosperity to the Palestinians before broaching other issues, such as territory.
He will have a hard time navigating a workable course between the popular right-of center group, the newcomers whose views are less clear-cut or moderate, the religious hardliners and his own pragmatism.
Former foreign and finance minister Silvan Shalom, who once challenged Netanyahu for the party lead, was disappointed with seventh place, former justice minister, left-of-center Dan Meridor rejoined Likud for the 17th spot while the far right religious faction leader Moshe Feiglin ended in 20th place. Former police commissioner Asaf Hefetz and former general Uzzi Dayan failed to reach realistic positions on the list.
Of the 99,000 registered party members, 49% turned out for the vote that was stalled by voting computers too complicated for general use.