Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu considered options including initiating a
general election in order to take advantage of his current popularity, but
decided against it, sources close to him confirmed Monday.
conducted a series of meetings with ministers and advisers in recent weeks in
which they discussed polls indicating he had been bolstered by recent events,
including the exchange for Gilad Schalit and Israel’s emergence from the UN
General Assembly unscathed.
The prime minister was advised that
initiating a general election would catch Kadima and Israel Beiteinu unprepared,
as well as his rivals inside the Likud. But Netanyahu decided against making
such a move and instead initiated only a Likud leadership race, which is set to
be held January 31.
“At this moment, he does not intend to advance the
general election,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “He has no such plan and he
genuinely wants to complete his term that ends in 2013. We always
considered that possibility but never too seriously.”RELATED:
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Netanyahu spoke to
every MK in Likud and received approval from all of them except Vice Premier
Silvan Shalom and his political allies for advancing the Likud race. In a speech
to the party, he dared Shalom, who was sitting across the room from him, to run
“The Likud is a transparent, democratic party and everyone
can submit their candidacy,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister disputed
Shalom’s assertions that he was engaged in political thievery, and that the
Likud bylaws required the leadership race be held within six months of a general
Recalling the last five Likud primaries, he said they were
always handled quickly and were not necessarily connected to a general
Shalom did not respond publicly to Netanyahu’s move on Monday,
but had a tough time hiding his anger at Netanyahu in several public
appearances. His associates said he was waiting for
the right time and place to respond and he had not yet decided whether to try to
take Netanyahu to court.
According to Likud bylaws, party primaries must
be held no earlier than six months before a scheduled general
Netanyahu received support from his number two and number three
in the Likud, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Environmental Minister Gilad
Erdan. Sa’ar said it was not realistic for anyone other than Netanyahu to win
the race, and that “the stronger Netanyahu is, the stronger Likud will
Erdan criticized Shalom, telling Israel Radio that “those who want
to challenge the chairman should do it before the Likud members, because going
to the courts never helps the party.”
Rather than criticize the
advancement of the race, backbenchers in Likud sought to clarify whether
Netanyahu intended to attempt to change the party rules in order to enable him
to reserve slots on the Likud list for Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his
Independence Party allies.
Netanyahu told MK Tzipi Hotovely, “I pledge
that I never promised a reserved slot for Barak and I was never asked
But coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin said Netanyahu’s comments did not
rule out taking such a step in the future.
Barak told the MKs in his
faction that they would run for the next election as an independent party. He
said the party would intensify its political activity over the next few
“We will run under the Independence name and that’s what will be
on our voting slips at the next general election,” Barak said. “We will appear
in the election and fight strongly.”Lahav Harkov contributed to this