(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Likud members geared up on Tuesday for the party's August 14 leadership race after Moshe Feiglin's candidacy was approved in a marathon session of the party's election committee the previous night.
The six-member election panel rejected a petition against Feiglin's candidacy submitted by party member Mishael Ben-Ami. Feiglin has called for Jewish law to become the law of the land, a policy that the party does not support, Ben-Ami wrote in the petition.
Such petitions against a candidacy can only be approved by a unanimous vote of the election committee. The sole vote to reject the petition and allow Feiglin to run came from Yoram Karshi, a long-time friend of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Kadima.
Karshi and his sister, Shula Zaken, who was Olmert's bureau chief for 30 years, are both suspects in the Israel Tax Authority tax-evasion affair.
The party will choose from among three candidates: incumbent chairman MK Binyamin Netanyahu, Betar activist Danny Danon and Feiglin, the head of the Likud's Jewish Leadership faction.
Insiders said that Feiglin's candidacy only survived thanks to a "Kadima mole," and that Danon was only in the race because Feiglin was. According to this thinking, Karshi is Olmert's man, and is forcing the Likud to waste millions of shekels on a contest everyone knows Netanyahu will win. A Kadima spokesman declined comment.
Feiglin will have to jump through one more hoop before he can begin his official campaign: a hearing with the Likud's internal court later this week.
"Money and time will be spent on this campaign, and mud will be slung around, and it is all for nothing," said one Likud MK. "Bibi's [Netanyahu] victory is all but assured. This election will be a pointless circus."