Daily Israel Report

Feiglin Hoping for a Pyrrhic Victory for Netanyahu

Netanyahu will win the Likud leadership contest Tuesday, but a strong showing for Moshe Feiglin could change the party’s future.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/31/2012, 8:43 AM

Bibi Feiglin
Bibi Feiglin
Israel news photo

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will unquestionably win the Likud leadership contest Tuesday, but a strong showing for Jewish Leadership faction leader Moshe Feiglin could change the party’s future.

Approximately 125,000 Likud members are eligible to cast ballots from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (5 p.m. to 5 a.m. EST) at 55 polling stations

A low turnout – rain is expected later in the day – could help Feiglin win more than 25 percent of the vote, which could turn into an ideological victory, if not a personal one. A strong showing for the challenger will influence the Likud primaries that determine the ranking of Likud candidates for the Knesset.

Feiglin’s support has grown from 3 percent to 24 percent in three previous leadership votes. Behind today’s voting is the issue of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

Senior Likud members already are running to show they are more nationalist than others. Silvan Shalom, a perennial candidate for a senior Cabinet post as well as a successor to Netanyahu, recently visited Migron, a community in Samaria that the High Court has ordered to be destroyed in two months.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has buried efforts by nationalists to present a bill that would legalize dozens of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, primarily Migron. The community of more than 40 families has become the symbol in a political and judicial struggle between nationalists and those who favor diminishing a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria as a concession to international pressure and to the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested to the Cabinet last week that Migron be destroyed and be rebuilt approximately a mile away as a legally authorized community. Nationalists have protested the proposal, arguing that there is no proof that Migron is situated on Arab-owned land.

The Prime Minister also has reportedly told the Palestinian Authority he is prepared to agree to the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews in dozens of communities while declaring Israeli sovereignty over areas with a larger Jewish population. The Palestinian Authiority previously has rejected any compromise and insists on Israel's surrendering all of Judea and Samaria as well as large parts of Jerusalem.