Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided on Sunday to hold the primaries in his Likud party earlier than scheduled, on January 31, 2012.
Prior to announcing his decision, Netanyahu held telephone conversations with ministers from his party and informed them of the decision.
The Likud primaries were to take place several months before the elections (which are not supposed to take place before 2013), but analysts believe Netanyahu’s decision to move them up is motivated by his desire to maintain his strong position in the Likud.
A recent Channel 2 poll showed the Likud party gaining 10 Knesset seats if elections were held today, and Kadima losing 11 seats. According to the poll, Likud would have 37 seats, and Kadima would have only 17, putting it in third place after Labor, which would receive 22 seats.
Asked whom they preferred as leader, 41% of respondents approved of Netanyahu. Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich received 15% and Kadima's Livni was tied with Lieberman at 9%.
Netanyahu’s decision will likely make it difficult for other contenders for the Likud leadership, first and foremost Minister Silvan Shalom, who in the past has said he would run for leader of Likud.
In response to Sunday evening’s announcement, Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Jewish Leadership faction in the Likud and one of Netanyahu’s rivals in the party, announced that he would run again for the position of Likud leader no matter when the primaries are held.