Netanyahu, Following Election Landslide, Still Scared of Feiglin
Binyamin Netanyahu, who won re-election as Likud chairman and Prime Ministerial candidate in Tuesday's party primaries, is not being graceful to the man he defeated - and in fact wants to throw him out of the party.
Netanyahu did not even allow Moshe Feiglin, who received nearly a quarter of the vote, to attend the victory's celebrations. Netanyahu received 73% of the vote.
Feiglin, who heads the Likud's Jewish Leadership faction, was refused entry to the hall in which Netanyahu was delivering his victory speech. Asked later why, instead of embracing the second-place finisher, as is customary, he refused to even allow him into the room, Netanyahu said he had no intention of embracing Feiglin or those like him. He denied having given the order to prevent him from entering, however.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that he also plans to work towards neutralizing Feiglin's power within the party, including possibly removing him altogether.
"As a democratic movement," a Netanyahu aide said, "the Likud must find ways to protect itself. There is no choice other than to find ways to stop this phenomenon [of Feiglin]."
Feiglin himself said he arrived at the Exhibition Fairgrounds in Tel Aviv to sincerely congratulate Netanyahu on his victory and to begin working together. "But I was surprised when the guards didn't let me in. Netanyahu's behavior has brought very little honor to the Likud that he leads... We have to work together against the true competition, which is the left-wing. But Netanyahu acted childishly and out of primal fear. I will be happy to receive an apology from him."
Feiglin was happy with his showing in the primaries, saying it proves that "a third of the Likud wants a leader who believes in G-d... Today the revolution to bring a leadership of faith has begun."
Given the strength of the Jewish Leadership camp in the Likud, it is assumed that as the national elections approach, Likud members who wish to be placed on the list of party candidates for Knesset will have to "come to understandings" with Feiglin and his supporters in order to receive their support. The list of Likud candidates for Knesset is determined by the Likud central body in which Feiglin has a strong representation.
Netanyahu's Critical Mistakes
Netanyahu has come under strong criticism for the way he handled the entire issue of the primaries. Veteran party member Uri Heitner writes that Netanyahu should have come to an agreed-upon election date with his previous challenger, MK Silvan Shalom - instead of forcing a date upon Shalom that gave him the excuse he sought to withdraw from the race altogether. Heitner writes:
"Netanyahu should have understood that an election between him and Shalom, in which he would have won with some 60 or 65% of the vote, would have strengthened Netanyahu... But he could not overcome his desires. In light of his strong poll standings, he wanted a quick and decisive victory - and in doing so, he totally ignored the threat from within in the form of Feiglin. He therefore had to do all sorts of last-minute acrobatics to get out his voters and run obsessively from TV station to radio station - merely to beat someone who until just recently was a mere quirk on the political stage... This is the political genius of the man who was known as the 'Magician'?... Feiglin's great achievement represents a genuine test of leadership for Netanyahu."
Feiglin told Arutz-7 that his goal now is to continue to register more members to the Likud. "The results show a great momentum towards a faith-based leadership, and we just have to keep on going," Feiglin said. He further said that he does not fear attempts to remove him from the party.