Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to Likud ministers who fared poorly in Sunday and Monday’s party primary and reassured them that he would not decide cabinet posts based on their showing in the race.

In a speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds following the announcement of the results, Netanyahu made a point of singling out two ministers in the inner security cabinet who were not elected to realistic slots on the party’s Knesset list and hinting that they would remain in the cabinet should he win the January 22 election.

“I want to say something personal to my friends, ministers Dan Meridor and Bennie Begin,” Netanyahu said. “I really appreciate your contribution to the state, and I want to continue to be helped by your experience.”

Netanyahu spoke to Begin before the announcement of the results in which the veteran minister fell just short of a realistic slot. The prime minister spoke to him again Tuesday and pleaded with him to not interpret the vote as a message from Likudniks that he should retire.

“I will do everything possible to make you a minister,” Netanyahu reportedly said.

Begin’s narrow defeat was blamed on his reluctance to campaign and his reliance on his name and his record alone.

Netanyahu also called two political allies who won realistic slots but did not meet expectations.

He told Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz that he would still give him a senior portfolio, most likely keeping his current job.

The prime minister told Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who finished third among women in the party, that she would still be a minister in his prospective next government.

He made no such promise to MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Miri Regev, who won more votes.

“You don’t need to worry,” Netanyahu told Livnat.

Click for full JPost coverage

A source close to Livnat said she did not make political deals and that she is “proud that she was elected despite not taking part in dirty politics.”

Netanyahu also called victorious candidates to congratulate them immediately before results were revealed to the public. He placed calls to the top finishers, ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan, and to surprise fifthplace winner Danny Danon.

Sources in Yisrael Beytenu rejected speculation that Begin, economist Shlomo Maoz, or other failed Knesset candidates could still end up on the joint list made of candidates from Likud and Yisrael Beytenu. The sources noted party regulations that require candidates to be members for six months and submit their candidacies by last week in order to run, but the sources added a caveat that party chairman Avigdor Liberman could disregard such rules.

While sources in former minister Tzipi Livni’s new party expressed interest in Meridor, Likud officials said he is not expected to accept an invitation to join a party that is unlikely to be part of the next coalition.

In his speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Netanyahu rejected criticism that the list was too right-wing. He predicted that the party would continue to rule after the election.

“Today it was proven once again that the Likud is the party of the nation,” Netanyahu proclaimed, saying the Likud has “an experienced, varied, and talented list” and that the party is “strong, energetic, and full of pizzazz.”

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger