Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu trounced challenger Moshe Feiglin, as both expected, in the vote on Tuesday for the leadership of the Likud party, but both men also said they won.
Netanyahu won 75 percent of the vote, while Feiglin won 25 percent, with Feiglin gaining 5% compared to the results in the previous leadership race.
“We did something that was almost impossible” by winning one quarter of the vote, said Feiglin, who maintained his supporters voted “for me and for a Jewish state."
The low turnout was a favorable factor for Feiglin, and Netanyahu spread the message during the evening to urge more Likud members to vote. In Judea and Samaria, polls opened late, causing friction and complaints.
The sharp difference in views between Netanyahu and Feiglin is expressed on the future of Judea and Samaria, which Feiglin says should be annexed and where Arab residents should be encouraged with liberal financial aid to leave Israel.
Netanyahu has tried to maintain a centrist view, maintaining support for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but leaving open the possibility of destroying many communities and expelling their residents. in order to create a PA state, leaving large blocs and Jerusalem in Israel's hands He previously has offered such concessions to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who rejected them out of hand as being insufficient.
Clearly concerned that the support for Feiglin is enough to influence the list of candidates in the next Knesset elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his victory speech Tuesday night, “The Likud movement is committed to a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and to the future of the People of Israel.” Right before the primaries, he also set up a three person committee to define land ownership issues in Judea and Samaria, replacing Ariel Sharon's controversial Sasson Report used as the basis for demolitions.
However, he did not define the “Land of Israel,” leaving him open to criticism that he is prepared for expulsions far larger than those in 2005, when the Likud-turned Kadima government expelled more than 9,000 Jews from Gaza and four northern Samaria communities.
Tzipi Livni, leader of the Kadima party, tried to paint Netanyahu and Feiglin with the same brush after Tuesday night’s vote.
“The Likud determined tonight it will continue with the extreme policies of Feiglin and Netanyahu. The Likud is Feiglin, and Feiglin is the Likud.”
She reiterated her theme that the Likud is an “extremist” party and that Kadima is the “only strong alternative.”
While claiming that the Likud is the real loser in the leadership vote, she is battling for her political life, with MK and former CoS Shaul Mofaz set to try to take over the Kadima leadership. Support for Kadima has sunk sharply since she lost her bid to form the government three years ago, and the numbers in pre-election polls crashed after journalist Yair Lapid last month announced his entry into politics.
The next election for the Knesset will take place as scheduled, next year, unless the government coalition breaks up or Prime Minister Netanyahu decides to dissolve the Knesset, Neither scenario is likely at this point.