´Loyalist´ Moshe Kahlon Wins Likud Vote, Shinui Party Implodes

Anti-Disengagement Likud "loyalist" MK Moshe Kahlon won his party's primaries Thursday, giving him the #3 slot after Netanyahu and Shalom. Shinui Party is in ruins, NRP had a 93% voter turnout.

Ezra HaLevi and Hillel Fendel , | updated: 1:14 AM

The so-called Likud "rebels" did well in the primaries, with four of five of the top slots going to those who opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan. Three leading anti-expulsion MKs, however, were left off the list: Michael Ratzon, Ehud Yatom and Ayoub Kara.

"We were elected with the message that we are going to change things," Kahlon told Israel Radio. "The Likud will no longer make decisions in the dead of night."

Jewish Leadership faction head Moshe Feiglin expressed satisfaction with the results, even though Michael Fuah, the faction's candidate for the Knesset list, did poorly in the vote.

The Likud Knesset list is as follows:
1) Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu - Unhappily supported Disengagement until the week before implementation, when he left the government in protest of it.
2) Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom - Supported Disengagement from beginning to end, though came out against the abandonment of the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt.
3) MK Moshe Kahlon - One of the less outspoken Likud 'loyalist,' though he voted consistently against the expulsion and is a close associate of MK Dr. Uzi Landau.
4) MK Gilad Erdan - Opposed the Disengagement.
5) MK Gideon Sa'ar - Likud's coalition whip, who maintained good relations with both camps in the Likud, was outspoken in favor of a referendum on the expulsion, and mainly voted against the expulsion.
6) MK Michael Eitan - Supported the Disengagement, but also fought on behalf of residents' and activists' legal rights in Knesset Legal Committee.
7) Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin - Opposed the Disengagement.
8) Health Minister Dan Naveh - Supported the Disengagement.
9) MK Yuval Shteinitz - Supported the Disengagement, but opposed the abandonment of Philadelphi Corridor.
10) Minister Limor Livnat (received enough votes for the 11th slot, but was bumped up because the 10th slot is reserved for a woman) - Supported the Disengagement.
11) Natan Sharansky - Resigned from government prior to implementation of Disengagement, but declined to join the pitched struggle against its implementation.
12) Minister Yisrael Katz - Opposed the Disengagement.
13) MK Chaim Katz - Opposed the Disengagement.
14) MK Uzi Landau - Considered the head of the Likud "loyalists", resigned the government long ago in protest of the Disengagement. He backed out of the primaries for head of the party and backed Netanyahu.
15) MK Yuli Edelstein - Opposed the Disengagement.
16) MK Daniel Benlulu - Opposed the Disengagement.
17) MK Leah Ness - Opposed the Disengagement.
18) MK Naomi Blumental - Opposed the Disengagement.

Next in line were MKs Yatom, Ratzon, David Levy, David Mena and Gila Gamliel, who will apparently not be in the next Knesset. Ahead of them on the Knesset list, according to the Likud charter, will be some 20 new candidates, representing various sectors. Yatom has already announced his resignation from politics.

"Tonight we saw that Likud is the only party in which there is actually democracy," chairman Binyamin Netanyahu announced Thursday night, after the results were announced. "In Kadima there is no democracy, in Shinui there is no democracy - only in Likud." 91 percent of Likud Central Committee members turned out to elect their candidates.

The election of both Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein is expected to help the Likud win the always-sought-after Russian swing vote. Both men were refuseniks in the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the anti-religious Shinui Party, unhappy with the results of their primaries, has decided to reject the results by splitting apart from Shinui. They plan to take with them a majority of the MKs and thereby retain the party name. A legal battle is expected, and neither of the two splinter factions can expect to do very well in the coming elections.

Shinui Party chairman Yosef "Tommy" Lapid was re-elected party chairman by a very small margin over challenger Itzik Gilad - a result of recent polls showing Lapid to be a liability to the party rather than an asset. MK Avraham Poraz failed to win the number two slot and immediately announced his resignation from the Party, starting the domino process of resignations that brought with it Shinui MKs Ilan Shalgi, Meli Polishuk-Bloch, Ettie Livni and Ronnie Brizon. They claim they will form a new list on their own without the burden of a central committee, in order to "represent the real Shinui," according to Army Radio.

Shinui had been expected to drop from 15 Knesset seats to less than 5. Fears had been expressed that the party might not even pass the Knesset threshold, as voters migrated to the Kadima and other parties. A poll early in the week said the party could garner as many as seven seats without Lapid at the top. "The only gimmick I can pull out of the hat at the moment is to have Lapid hospitalized and if I go into a coma," Poraz told reporters.

Moledet and NRP Primaries
The Moledet party voted to keep MK Rabbi Binyamin Elon at its top spot, followed by MK Aryeh Eldad, American oleh (immigrant) Uri Bank and Alex Epstein. The four are entitled to occupy the first, sixth, ninth and tenth spots on the National Union list, but Dr. Eldad said before the vote that if he remains in the sixth slot, he will either retire or form or join another party.

MK Nissan Slomiansky won the National Religious Party internal elections, but will remain number two as the top slot is reserved for party chairman Zevulun Orlev. After Slomiansky came former Knesset Member Eli Gabbai, followed by MK Gila Finkelstein, MK Sha'ul Yahalom and Moti Yogev. Following the vote, MK Yahalom issued a call for "all the young people to return home to the NRP."