Likud hawks call to boycott party primary

Activists protesting Netanyahu policies hope to force another vote.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 22, 2012 20:35
2 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu wants to delay Likud elections

Bibi at Likud rally. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might have thought that his only opponent in the January 31 Likud primary would be party activist Moshe Feiglin.

But a new foe surfaced Sunday.

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A group of Likud activists who have registered thousands of members eligible to vote in the race called on Sunday for a boycott of the primary to protest Netanyahu’s policies. The group intends to start a campaign on Monday with advertisements urging a boycott that could call the election’s legitimacy into question.

The slogan of the campaign will be: “This time vote from your couch.”

“Netanyahu is cynically trying to use these elections for political thievery,” said Natan Engelsman, one of the heads of the Likud’s Judea and Samaria branch, who initiated the boycott. “He purposely advanced the race so another candidate couldn’t run. If less than 50 percent of the members vote, the election won’t be regarded as legitimate, and there will have to be another election for head of the party.”

The activists cite Netanyahu’s support for a Palestinian state, his failure to build enough in Judea and Samaria and his opposition to legalizing the Migron outpost in its current location as reasons to not vote for him.

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“We call upon Likud members who are interested in a lively, democratic party to skip this race,” Engelsman said. “Netanyahu will get elected in any case, but we hope to at least get a message across to him and influence his future policies.”

While most of the campaign targets Netanyahu, the activists also urge Likud members not to vote for Feiglin, who they call an “irrelevant” candidate whose repeated hopeless runs for Likud leader have weakened the national camp in the party.

“There is no point in voting for Feiglin, who will always be seen as a foreign influence on the party and will never be accepted,” one of the organizers of the campaign said.

Feiglin responded that the boycott was pointless because Netanyahu would recognize the result no matter what it is. He said he did not know whether the boycott would harm or help his candidacy.

“We have a party chairman who called for the formation of a Palestinian state and no one other than me decided to run against him and represent the other side,” Feiglin said. “By running, I saved the Likud’s self-respect. I don’t understand why they don’t want to support a candidate who opposes a Palestinian state and represents the true interests of Likud.”

In response to the boycott, Netanyahu’s campaign chief, Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas, said that the primary will take place on January 31, as planned, and that 130,000 Likud members from all over the country and from all population groups will participate in democratic elections that will reflect the Likud’s values.

“Whoever chooses to vote,” Bibas said, “will impact not only the Likud’s identity but on the future of the country.”

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