Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu Wins Likud Primary, Feiglin Strengthens

Binyamin Netanyahu is the winner of the Likud primaries. "Tonight the Likud has embarked on its way to leadership of the country," Netanyahu said in his victory speech.



By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 12/20/2005, 12:45 PM / Last Update: 12/19/2005, 10:12 PM

With 98% of the votes counted, Netanyahu received 44.4% of the vote, Silvan Shalom 33%, Moshe Feiglin 12.4% and Yisrael Katz 8.7% - with fewer than 44.6% of the 128,000 Likud voters casting ballots.

Netanyahu told Arutz-7 Monday that the Likud needs a strong leader who will guard Jerusalem, a reference to reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to divide the capital.

There is speculation that Netanyahu will attempt to gather a coalition of 61 MKs and seek to become prime minister in place of Sharon, thereby pushing off elections. Under the dissolution of the 16th Knesset, the elections are currently scheduled for the end of March, but if a coalition is formed, the elections would return to November.

Feiglin, who was the only candidate who is not even a Knesset member, beat Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem, the largest Likud chapter, receiving 25% of the votes. In Haifa, 17.5% of the votes went to Feiglin. He expressed satisfaction with the election results, which demonstrate significant gains for the Manhigut Yehudit - Jewish Leadership faction.

"We will continue to grow and will soon lead the party and the country," Feiglin said. "Today is a great day for the Jewish people, as it is now clear that an alternative leadership is rising, presenting an alternative to the direction the country is heading."

Asked why he and Manhigut Yehudit activists were celebrating the outcome, when Netanyahu was the projected winner of the primary, Feiglin answered: "The winner is the fact that the voters are beginning to understand that a believer must be elected to lead the Jewish people."

Asked whether he was surprised with the percentage of voters who chose to vote for him instead of Netanyahu, despite calls by the Yesha Council not to vote Feiglin, he said: "The Yesha Council appoints itself. They were not elected, and the general public and those who were expelled from Gush Katif eschew their advice in favor of their own conscience and the advice of the Yesha rabbis, who advised people to choose faithful leadership."

"What will you do now?" asked Army Radio's interviewer.

"I will continue to operate within the Likud to bring about a continued faith revolution within the party and the country," Feiglin answered.

Comments from MKs focused on Feiglin's votes rather than Netanyahu's projected victory.

"Feiglin is a Jewish fascist," said Shinui Chairman Yosef Lapid. "His achievements in this election are a stain upon the Revisionist movement."

Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) told Channel 10, "Now we will have to insure that Feiglin not be allowed to be a part of the Likud." Livnat has long sought to ban Feiglin from the Likud Party and seek ways to root out Jewish Leadership faction members to stem their influence.

Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai sharply attacked Likud voters for electing Netanyahu, whom he blames for the poverty in Israel. "The Likud is like a bungee jumper who has not checked his cord," Yishai said.

Shalom’s strategic advisor, Moshe Dubi, told Yediot Aharonot that, "Likud members are behaving like a battered wife, returning to the old and familiar Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Feiglin used an identical analogy Sunday, referring to the Yesha Council's call to vote for Netanyahu.

MK Uzi Landau, who withdrew from the race and endorsed Netanyahu, told reporters that his endorsement is what allowed Netanyahu to win the race in one round. He also told Channel 10 that "Feiglin is not part of the Likud Party" - Landau's first attack on fellow expulsion-opponent Feiglin.