Netanyahu leaning toward moving up Likud race

PM moved up last two races in order to catch his potential competitors off guard.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 9, 2014 01:05
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem October 7. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to call for a new Likud leadership primary after Succot, a source close to him said on Wednesday.

The source confirmed reports that Netanyahu is leaning toward advancing the race to ensure that the Likud is prepared for the next general election. The Likud must hold a leadership race ahead of every general election.

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While such races tend to be held in proximity to general elections, Netanyahu moved up the last two primaries to catch his potential competitors off guard.

Likud sources said in mid-July that if Netanyahu emerged from Operation Protective Edge with what could be characterized as a victory he could repeat the pattern and take advantage of his post-war popularity.

Netanyahu’s popularity nosedived when the operation ended, but following his confrontation with US president Barack Obama’s administration over building in Jerusalem last week, it rose again, setting the stage for Netanyahu to advance the race.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who is No. 2 in the Likud, was seen as the only possible candidate who had a slight chance of beating Netanyahu, but Sa’ar has said he will take a break from politics and intends to quit his political posts after Succot.

The only definite challenger to Netanyahu will be perennial candidate Moshe Feiglin, who has invited the public to join him on the Temple Mount on Monday.

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Advancing the race could also help Netanyahu preempt moves to harm him in the Likud’s institutions, including a proposal for de facto term limits.

The Likud’s law committee, chaired by Netanyahu nemesis MK Danny Danon, intends to pass a controversial proposal that would require a special majority of as much as 60 percent in a party primary for an incumbent to win reelection as party leader. The proposal is expected to pass after the holidays and shortly after Sa’ar’s resignation takes effect.

After winning reelection as Likud leader, Netanyahu’s associates said he would try to change the way the party elects its Knesset candidates, indicating that he would be willing to allow the Likud central committee to select the party’s MKs if it grants him the right to handpick two or three of his own candidates.

Ma’ariv, The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-sister newspaper, reported that one of Netanyahu’s choices would be former IDF deputy chief of staff Yoav Gallant.

Danon, who chairs the central committee, said he was unaware that Netanyahu had such plans.

“The Likud has no room for celebrities to be drafted into top slots on the list as happens in parties led by one man,” Danon said. “I am obligated to maintain the Likud’s values and its democratic spirit.”

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