A dozen West Bank settlements have more Likud members than people who voted for Likud Beytenu in Tuesday’s election, according to numbers obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.
Likud officials have complained for years that settlers have joined the party en masse in order to back hawks in party primaries with no intention of voting for the party in general elections. The officials’ fears were proven correct by Tuesday’s results.
Shilo in Samaria has 303 Likud members, but only 127 people voted for Likud Beytenu there. Yitzhar in northern Samaria, which has 93 Likud members, had only 21 Likud Beytenu votes.
In the Jewish community in Hebron, there are 59 party members, but only 21 voted Likud Beytenu. In Beit El, which has 491 members, only 212 voted Likud Beytenu.
There were also fewer Likud Beytenu votes than Likud members in Ofra, Elon Moreh, Revava, Itamar, Kedumim, Mitzpe Yeriho, Otniel and Eli.
Likud activist Barak Herscowitz compiled the numbers for his blog, Pa’amon Haherut (“Liberty Bell”). “For years, there has been a problem with settlers joining the Likud and not voting for the party in general elections,” Herscowitz said. “What they are doing is not illegal, but they are taking advantage of the system to gain power and influence.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced sharp criticism from ministers, MKs and activists in his party on Wednesday for the Likud’s downfall in Tuesday’s election.
But while the activists spoke freely and openly, the ministers and MKs were careful to speak anonymously in order to avoid Netanyahu’s wrath and not prevent themselves from receiving posts in the next government.
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The activists said they expected Netanyahu to face challenges to his leadership but only after he appoints his cabinet.
The Likud politicians blamed Netanyahu for leading the party from 27 seats in the 2009 election to the 20 Likud seats among the 31 won by the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list on Tuesday.
“Bibi [Netanyahu] had all the tools to win the race,” a minister said in closed conversations.
“He could have set the agenda every day, but he did another spin campaign every day and it kept on falling. The Likud is a political burden for him. We can’t escape the conclusion that he wanted a smaller Likud and that’s why he lost.”
Likud activists complained that the party made no effort to use them to help it win more seats. They said Netanyahu thought he could replace the party’s infrastructure of activists with Facebook but was proven incorrect.
“Netanyahu paralyzed the party,” said Ashkelon Likud activist Eli Cornfeld, who was once close to Netanyahu.
“The party’s director-general, institutions and branches are not functioning. There is no transparency. No one knows where the money is going. Bibi has treated party activists as his indentured servants, so it should have been no surprise to him that we fared so poorly,” Cornfeld said.
Fingers in the Likud were also pointed at Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who chaired the party’s campaign; Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who headed its public relations team; and former minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who led the Election Day operations.
The activists accused Sa’ar and Hanegbi of distributing NIS 15 million worth of government-funded jobs in polling stations to their political cronies and Erdan of not giving Likud branches funding to put up banners and signs in their communities.
“Their behavior divided party branches around the country and caused demoralization from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat,” Cornfeld said.
“They castrated the field, where the Likud has its main advantage over the other parties. We have activists who are thirsty for work and they didn’t take advantage of them,” he said.
As an example, Cornfeld cited a polling station in Ashkelon in which only one car was made available to bring elderly people to vote. Many of the 10,000 people registered to vote at the station stayed home, because no one could give them a ride, he said.
The activists complained about the deal with Yisrael Beytenu, which they said did not bear fruit.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman also faced private criticism about the arrangement. At a press conference in Jerusalem, he justified the agreement, saying it enabled the nationalist camp to stay in power.
In an effort to make up for the joint list’s poor showing, Liberman said he would work toward the passage of the so-called “Norwegian Law,” which would enable ministers to conditionally leave the Knesset in favor of the next candidates on their party’s list.