A man votes in the Likud’s internal elections..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Only slightly more than half the Likud’s 96,651 members – 55% – cast ballots Wednesday in a race for the party leadership and its Knesset slate for the March 17 election.
At a press conference late Wednesday evening, MK Danny Danon conceded the leadership race to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When he voted earlier in Tel Aviv, Danon said that after the race “we will work together for the success of Likud.”
Those who did vote complained about long lines at the polling station at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Voting there was temporarily halted due to fighting that broke out among the people in line. Policemen temporarily evacuated the site after voters burst inside and interrupted the voting.
Many of the voters responsible for the long lines were employees of Israel Aircraft Industries who were given time off from work in order to cast ballots for MK Haim Katz, who head’s the IAA’s union, and his loyalists in the party.
There were calls Wednesday to investigate Katz, who was probed after the last Likud primary two years ago.
Likud officials said while the leadership results were expected overnight, full results for the party’s Knesset slate might not be ready until Friday.
“The primary is important for Israel because they will decide who will run the country and protect it,” Netanyahu said when he voted in Jerusalem beside his wife, Sara.
When he went to campaign in Jerusalem, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon expressed frustration with far right-wing Likud activists who tried to persuade him to turn a blind eye to illegal acts in Judea and Samaria in return for their votes.
“There are extremists who expect me to break the law and permit throwing stones on soldiers and other acts,” he said. “I won’t turn a blind eye to get a higher place on the list.”
The two ministers who were thought to be fighting over the top slot on the list after Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, embraced at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds and wished each other well.
Erdan denied that there are concerns the Likud list would be too right-wing to appeal to the general population.
“Those who call us extremists are left-wing extremists who want us to give away our land,” he told reporters at the fairgrounds.
The transportation minister denied that he made political deals, saying: “If you find someone with a prepared a list in my name, I’ll quit the race.”
Likud faction chairman Ze’ev Elkin defended the Likud from charges of corrupt deal-making. He said what mattered was that the Likud remains democratic.
“Too many parties have adopted the North Korean system that prevents anyone from running against the party leader,” he said.