Likud Primaries voting booth.
(photo credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein came in first place in the Likud primaries, with Transportation Minister Israel Katz in second place followed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, after all the votes were counted on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be first on the list for the Knesset. Netanyahu said he is “very very satisfied because Likud members precisely and democratically voted in a strong and impressive list that is good for Israel.”
Netanyahu’s rival, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, came in fourth place, despite the premier’s best efforts to convince party members not to vote for him.
However, Netanyahu was especially concerned that Sa’ar would reach first place, which did not happen. The prime minister had said Sa’ar was conspiring to be appointed prime minister instead of him, in light of the likelihood that Netanyahu would undergo a pre-indictment hearing on corruption charges before the April 9 election. Sa’ar firmly denied the rumor.
Sa’ar called his placement on the party’s list “the greatest achievement of my political career,” in light of his return after four years away from electoral politics, “even more so than the two times I came in first place in past primaries.”
Sources close to Netanyahu said he “didn’t want Sa’ar in first place, and succeeded.” The prime minister called to congratulate many of the candidates who reached the top 10 spots on the list, but not Sa’ar.
Netanyahu is likely to disregard placement on the list when giving out ministerial portfolios within his party, rewarding loyalists. Edelstein indicated that he would like to remain Knesset Speaker, which Netanyahu is likely to respect if he leads the next government. Sources close to Netanyahu said he does not plan to give Sa’ar a senior ministerial position.
However, placement on the list is an indication of popularity in the Likud, which could signal who will eventually replace Netanyahu.
Rounding out the top five is Culture Minister Miri Regev.
The rest of the top 10 were former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Immigration Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter.
Apart from Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, all of the Likud’s ministers reached realistic spots, as did Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
The current MKs who were bumped below realistic spots are Yehudah Glick, Nurit Koren, Anat Berko, Yaron Mazuz, Nava Boker and scandal-prone Oren Hazan.
Though Ethiopia-born MK Avraham Naguise received the fewest votes of any incumbent lawmaker, he was bumped up to a realistic spot as an immigrant. Canada-born Sharren Haskel is in the 29th spot on the list.
Some notable newcomers in the party are Idan Pinhas, head of the airport workers union, in the Shfela region; Shlomo Karai, who enjoyed Netanyahu’s backing in the Negev region; and Michal Shir, a former Sa’ar aide who defeated Netanyahu’s candidate in the Tel Aviv region.
Anti-migrant activist May Golan, who ran with the right-wing extremist party Otzma Yehudit in the last election, won the young candidate spot, but at 34th place on the list, she is unlikely to make it into the Knesset.
Polls closed in 113 locations across the country at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night with 69,719 out of over 120,000 eligible Likud members casting their ballot, a turnout of 58%. This is an increase compared with the previous primary in 2015, in which only 52% eligible members voted, and there has also been a significant increase in the number of Likud members.
The Likud also approved a proposal to allow Netanyahu to appoint three candidates to the party’s list for the Knesset, one of which is not in a realistic spot according to current polls.
Though Netanyahu has said the spots are so he can merge a smaller party with Likud to counter parties running together on the Center-Left, he may seek to add more women or Sephardi candidates to the list, of which there are only five and nine, respectively, in realistic spots.•
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