Netanyahu victorious, vows US recognition of Israeli settlement annexation

MK Gideon Sa'ar conceded in a call to the prime minister.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in his victory speech after winning Thursday’s Likud primary that if reelected prime minister, he will bring about American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over every Jewish community in Judea and Samaria.
Speaking after defeating Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu did not mention his challenger. He instead declared victory over bad weather, the press and “those who distribute fake polls and fake news.” He said he received a massive new mandate from the Likud.
“Most of the nation supports the Right, and most of the nation supports me to be prime minister,” Netanyahu told the crowd at the Airport City convention center. “The sweeping victory in the primaries was a huge vote of confidence in me and our path. We proved we can win big.”
Netanyahu vowed in the speech that if he wins the March 2 election, he would make sure to obtain more diplomatic accomplishments.
“In the years ahead, we will deliver more achievements that could have only have been dreamed of,” he said. “We will set our final borders; bring about American recognition for Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and our sovereignty over every settlement in Judea and Samaria; obtain a defense pact with the US that will ensure Israeli freedom to act; we will defeat Iran; and achieve a peace pact with Arab countries.”
It was a pledge Netanyahu had made a number of times in the last week. During the last election cycle, he had promised to annex the Jordan Valley and the Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley immediately upon formation of a new government.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, an inter-departmental preparatory committee for the application of such sovereignty is set to meet in the next two weeks. The committee is chaired by Prime Minister’s Office director-general Ronen Peretz.
Netanyahu received 41,792 votes, which was 72.5% of the vote, while Sa’ar received 15,885, which was 27.5%. Out of the 106 polling stations across the country, Netanyahu won 99 and Sa’ar only seven.
“A huge win!” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter after initial election results started coming in. “Thank you to all members of the Likud for the trust, support and the love. I will lead the Likud to a big win in the upcoming elections, and we will continue to lead the State of Israel to incredible achievements.”
Sa'ar called Netanyahu to concede the race and promised him that he and the five Likud MKs who supported him would stand behind him ahead of the March 2 Knesset race. But after two weeks of Netanyahu’s associates attacking Sa’ar for challenging the prime minister, Sa’ar said he would not apologize for his campaign.
“This contest was immensely important to the Likud and its democratic character,” he said. “I am content with my decision to have run – it was the right decision. Those who are unwilling to take a risk for what they believe in will never succeed.”
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar said the results proved that the nation backs Netanyahu despite the media. He called upon the premier to seek immunity from prosecution in his criminal cases so that he can continue as prime minister.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz responded to the Likud race by saying that, “the defendant Netanyahu, who is leading the State of Israel down a path of corruption, will continue to lead Likud. Jabotinsky and Begin’s movement, which spoke of the supremacy of law, has elected a leader facing three indictments, who is seeking to unravel the rule of law and secure personal immunity, rather than address the actual concerns of the Israeli people.”
The head of Blue and White’s response team, MK Asaf Zamir, wrote on Twitter: “The Likud is now officially the Bibi party, and anyone who is not a complete Bibist – and there are still Likudniks like that – does not belong there.”
Labor-Gesher said the results proved that the Likud is disconnected from the nation.
Stormy weather across the country, a perception that Netanyahu would win easily and a Likud court decision requiring thousands of party members to travel far to vote resulted in a turnout of just under half of the party membership (49%).
The 116,048 members of Likud were eligible to vote in their assigned polling stations among 106 across the country from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Tamar Beeri, Aaron Reich and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.