Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s associates spent Thursday calling Likud members and pleading with them to save the political careers of his closest allies in Sunday’s party primary.
Polls will open at 9 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. in 132 sites across the country to enable the Likud’s 123,351 members to choose among the 97 candidates for less than 30 realistic slots on the party’s joint list with Yisrael Beytenu.
Netanyahu would like top slots on the list to go to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin and former minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
His associates said it is important to him that room be found on the crowded list for Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, and economist Shlomo Maoz.
None of Netanyahu’s candidates are expected to be supported by groups of Judea and Samaria residents who have flocked to the party in recent years. Internal groups in the party vowed to block supporters of a Palestinian state from the list.
The hawks in the Likud support the party’s sole minister who lives in Judea and Samaria, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, as well as ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan and MKs Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Yariv Levin and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom.
But much of the Likud’s list is expected to be decided in political deals made by power-brokers in the party like MK Haim Katz, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, and supporters of party activist Moshe Feiglin. Party sources said that unlike past elections, Netanyahu is not working hard behind the scenes to prevent Feiglin from getting elected.
A group of Likud activists led by Eli Cornfeld of Ashkelon appealed to the party’s internal court Thursday to try to postpone the primary due to Operation Pillar of Defense, which prevented them from campaigning, and ongoing worries of rocket fire on the South.
The appeal is not expected to succeed, neither in party nor external courts.