Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud faction meeting, December 3, 2014.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a big boost inside his Likud party Wednesday when he succeeded in passing a proposal on how and when to elect the party's MKs.
Netanyahu's proposal passed by a vote of 1567 to 835, indicating that he maintains a strong grip over the party ahead of the Likud leadership race, which the proposal advanced to December 31. On that date, the Likud will also elect its Knesset list, which will include two slots that will be reserved for the party leader to select his own candidates who will not have to run in the primary.
"I thank Likud members for their clear and overwhelming support," Netanyahu said in a statement. "This is an important step toward my victory in the upcoming general election as leader of Likud."
Netanyahu won in all 10 polling stations across the country, including in Ariel, which is a stronghold of his Likud rival Moshe Feiglin.
Sources close to the prime minister said the central committee members sent a strong message to Netanyahu's current and potential rivals that only Netanyahu will lead the Likud and the state. They said Netanyahu overcame cooperation between activists loyal to his competition in the race, MKs Danny Danon and Feiglin, as well as former interior minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is contemplating running.
Sa'ar must decide whether to run by Sunday afternoon's deadline. Netanyahu's efforts to advance the race were seen as an attempt by him to prevent Sa'ar's from running. Sa'ar criticized Netanyahu when he went to vote at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
"The attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game is not fair," Sa'ar said. "There is no problem with the orignal date chosen by the central committee, January 6. It leaves enough time before the Likud list for the Knesset has to be submitted."
Deputy foreign minister Tzachi Hanegbi, an ally of Netanyahu, responded that there was no attempt to change the rules, just to finish internal procedures in Likud as soon as possible and prepare for the general election.
The results may end up invalidated by the Tel Aviv District Court, which will hear an appeal on whether the vote was legal Thursday afternoon.
"We don't like anyone acting like a dictator," said Likud activist Eli Cornfeld, who filed the appeal.