Netanyahu crushes Danon to retain Likud chairmanship; Erdan takes No. 2 slot

Official list of the Likud leadership is released on Thursday evening after a final count of votes.

Erdan, Edelstein, Regev and Katz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Erdan, Edelstein, Regev and Katz
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein won the top slots behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Likud’s Knesset candidates list in Wednesday’s party primary, the Likud’s spokeswoman announced after 18 hours of counting votes by hand that ended on Thursday night.
They will be followed on the list’s top 10 by Israel Katz, Miri Regev, Silvan Shalom, Moshe Ya’alon, Ze’ev Elkin, Tzachi Hanegbi, and Danny Danon.
Former Kadima minister Avi Dichter surprised by winning a realistic slot, 20th on the list.
Netanyahu expressed satisfaction with his candidates, calling it an excellent and diverse slate full of responsible people who are experienced on diplomatic and socioeconomic issues. He hinted he is happy that political deals had apparently failed.
“This is the list of a ruling party that can continue leading Israel,” he said. “This is the best list of any of the parties and it will help us beat the Left that is headed by Tzipi [Livni] and Buji [opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s nickname].”
Sources close to the prime minister said he was disappointed that Regev had become the Likud’s top woman candidate, but that placement on the list would not affect who gets which ministerial appointments after the March 17 general election. They also said he is happy that MK Moshe Feiglin had not won a realistic slot on the list.
Feiglin’s loyalists accused Netanyahu of taking illegal steps to prevent his reelection. They said the prime minister personally saw to it that Feiglin’s observers would not be present when votes were counted.
Nevertheless, Feiglin does not intend to take the Likud to court.
“We believe there was serious election fraud, but we won’t go to court, because it would not accomplish anything,” Feiglin confidant Shmuel Sackett said. “While we don’t appreciate what was done, it’s not something we are going to challenge.”
Sackett said Feiglin would announce “how he will recover from this temporary setback” at a rally for his supporters on Monday night in Jerusalem.
When asked about the possibility that Feiglin might join another party, such as former Shas chairman Eli Yishai’s Yahad Ha’am Itanu, Sackett said, “All options are on the table.”
On Monday night, the Likud is planning a major political event with Netanyahu and the party’s candidates in which the party’s strategy for the general election will be revealed. Likud officials promise a dramatic announcement at the event, but would not elaborate.
In the race for Likud leader, Netanyahu garnered 75 percent of the vote. His only competitor, Danon, won 19%, and 6% abstained. Feiglin dropped out of that race.
MK Gila Gamliel, the only other woman to score a realistic place on the Likud candidate list, won the 14th spot.
The only Likud MK besides Feiglin who did not win a realistic slot on the list was MK Tzipi Hotovely, who placed 26th.
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich said it is unacceptable that there are only two female candidates in the Likud’s top 24 slots and called upon Netanyahu to give women the two slots on the list reserved for candidates of his choosing.
The 18th slot was won by former Beit She’an mayor Jackie Levy, son of former foreign minister David Levy and brother of current Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecasis. An unrealistic slot on the list reserved for a candidate from Judea and Samaria was won by Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, who survived a recent assassination attempt by an Islamist terrorist.
Another slot, reserved for a candidate from Tel Aviv, was unrealistic but won by Amir Ohana, who is openly gay.
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni said that the list chosen by Likud primary voters consisted of the same people who had brought the country to its current undesirable condition.
“The faces and names on the Likud list are the same faces and names that brought the country to a situation in which poverty is becoming worse, Israel is increasingly isolated, and young couples can’t buy an apartment,” they said.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said that had former Likud leader Menachem Begin run in the Likud primary, he would not have been elected.
“They would have thrown him out,” Lapid said. “With his modesty, with his honesty, with his respect for the courts. They would have pushed him down the list for Israel Katz and Danny Danon. Vote contractors would have put him on elimination lists. The deal makers would have said they can’t get anything from him.”
Rebel Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun, who is running with Yahad Ha’am Itanu, said the candidates the Likud chose were too moderate and would continue the Oslo peace process.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.