Transportation Minister Israel Katz won a close race in the bitterly fought
contest for the chairmanship of the Likud secretariat on Sunday over MK Miri
Regev, Likud officials said.
Katz’s associates said the victory felt
especially good because it was not only over Regev but also three top Likud
ministers who worked against him: Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan and Silvan
Regev released a statement conceding the race to Katz, and saying
that she respected the will of the voters.
"The Likud will come out from
this race united and strong in the face of challenges on diplomatic and
socioeconomic issues," she said.
The Likud party proved its vitality Sunday when 80 percent of its 3,623 central committee members who were eligible to vote in internal party elections cast their ballots.
A Likud spokeswoman said 2,935 central committee members had voted in polling stations in Israel's 10 largest cities.
But the candidates who won the races all vowed to work together with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the good of the party. They denied reports that the election had shown Netanyahu's weakness inside the party he leads.
Deputy defense minister Danny Danon, who won the central committee's chairmanship, deputy foreign minister Ze'ev Elkin, who had no serious competition for chair of the Likud's ideological committee, and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who won a tough battle to head the Likud secretariat, all pledged their loyalty to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu spoke to all three men ahead of the election and received commitments to run the party in a statesmanlike way. In return, Netanyahu pledged to take a more active role in the party, starting by meeting Likud mayors on Tuesday.
The prime minister also reached out to his party's activists by ruling out a merger with former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu that the activists strongly oppose. In closed conversations, Netanyahu said that just like rumors ahead of the last election that he intended to merge Likud with Ehud Barak's Indepedence Party were untrue, reports that he wanted to merge with Yisrael Beytenu were nonsense.
For security reasons, Netanyahu voted from his residence in Jerusalem. The candidates for the top jobs spent the day campaigning from polling station to polling station.
Danon told reporters at a polling station in Rishon Lezion that he hoped the day after the election, his party's ministers would stop fighting.
"We are in the same faction and the same boat," Danon said. "We have to work together after the race. We will have to get along."
Elkin said that "what matters is that the Likud institutions are coming back to life."