(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Perennial Likud leadership candidate Moshe Feiglin dropped a political bombshell early Thursday morning when he announced that he had decided to drop out of the December 31 Likud leadership race.
Feiglin criticized a decision made Wednesday by a Likud internal court, which ruled that the party must elect its candidate for prime minister and the rest of its Knesset list together the same time.
He considered appealing the decision to an external court in Tel Aviv, but decided against dragging the party into more legal battles.
“The Likud court’s decision changes the rules of the game and would require me to compete in two simultaneous races on two fronts,” Feiglin wrote in a text message sent to reporters at 6:30 a.m. “I will not drag the party to more legal battles so soon before the general election.
At such a fateful time, we must unite to keep the Likud as the ruling party. So this time I intend to run only for the Knesset, and I am convinced I will receive significant support. I will run again for leader of the party and the state in any future primary that will be real.”
The last Likud leadership race without Feiglin took place September 2, 1999. He has run in every Likud leadership race since then, and while he never came close to winning, his support rose every time.
His departure left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Danny Danon as the only candidates. Danon told The Jerusalem Post after Feiglin’s announcement that he would stay in the race.
“I will continue to run and struggle to return the Likud its true path,” Danon said.
A source close to Feiglin said he supported Netanyahu in the race, but he acknowledged that some of his supporters may end up voting for Danon.
A smaller court had ruled Monday that the two races must be separate. Netanyahu appealed to a larger court, citing the high cost of having the two votes on separate days.
Netanyahu’s associates said holding the two races on the same day would boost voter turnout and enable him to win by a wider margin. They had expressed caution that a vote for Likud leader on a different day would have a low turnout, which would help Feiglin and Danon.
Likud activists Eli Cornfeld and Ran Levy appealed the Likud court’s decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, so the saga over the date of the race is not over yet.
Also, the expanded Likud court has not yet ruled on Netanyahu’s request to reserve two slots on the Likud list for candidates of his choosing at the 11th and 23rd spots on the list. Among the names Netanyahu is considering for those slots are former IDF deputy chiefs of staff Yoav Galant and Uzi Dayan, economist Shlomo Maoz, and former basketball star Tal Brody.