(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The politician that Likud activists most want to see at the top of the Likud list, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, according to a mock primary held among more than 1,200 party activists at this weekend’s Likudiada event in Eilat.
Likud ministers and MKs came to the privately sponsored three-day event to meet with their constituents and to lobby for their support in the mock election, which the candidates took very seriously.
They set up booths and distributed T-shirts and stickers like in a real primary.
Ahead of the vote, there was speculation that it would be won by Culture Minister Miri Regev, who dominated recent headlines. But it was Gamliel, her rival for the Likud’s top woman, who stole the show.
Gamliel was followed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Science and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Regev only finished sixth and controversial Likud MK Oren Hazan only 20th.
The mock election found that if a real Likud primary would happen now, slots would not be won by Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, or former minister Silvan Shalom’s wife, Judy Nir-Mozes Shalom.
A separate vote on who should be Netanyahu’s successor as head of Likud was canceled by organizers Moshe Passal and Moshe Ben Zaken.
That vote was expected to be a showdown between former minister Gideon Sa’ar, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and other possible candidates.
Instead, the Likud activists were asked whether they wanted former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi to join their party. The results were even, with 45 percent saying they did not want him in Likud, 44% saying they did, and 11% abstaining.
At the event, Barkat made his first appearance before Likud activists since formally joining the party last month.
“When I joined the Likud, friends told me they thought I had already been in the party for a long time,” Barkat told the crowd. “In the last election, I supported the Likud and Netanyahu, even at the tough moments when it was not popular.”
Ya’alon faced hecklers when he said in his speech that Jews who he said illegally settled a controversial home in Hebron were “shooting the state in the legs and the settlement movement in the head.” Ya’alon responded that no one could scold him on the importance of settlement, but it must be done within the boundaries of the law.
In another statement unpopular with hawkish Likud activists, Ya’alon said it was important to remain humane when fighting terrorism and not harm uninvolved civilian populations. He said Israel was succeeding in deterring ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Over the weekend, a rightwing campaign began slamming Ya’alon for not doing more to fight terrorism and saying he should take more punitive steps against the residents of areas where the terrorists live.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz told Channel 2’s Meet the Press program Saturday night that he would never run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or leave the Likud. Netanyahu and Katz have sparred on a number of issues in recent weeks, most recently on the issue of the Uber taxi service. Katz said Netanyahu’s criticism of him on the issue in last week’s cabinet meeting was incorrect and he believes Netanyahu realized that as well.