Danny Danon voting at Likud elections 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The ruling Likud party proved its vitality Sunday when 80 percent of its 3,623 central committee members who were eligible to vote in internal party elections cast their ballots.
A Likud spokeswoman said 2,935 central committee members had voted in polling stations in Israel's 10 largest cities. Final results of the election were not available by press time.
But the candidates who were expected to win the races all vowed to work together with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the good of the party. They denied reports that the election had shown Netanyahu's weakness inside the party he leads.
Deputy defense minister Danny Danon, who was expected to win the central committee's chairmanship, deputy foreign minister Ze'ev Elkin, who had no serious competition for chair of the Likud's ideological committee, and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who was expected to win a tough battle to head the Likud secretariat, all pledged their loyalty to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu spoke to all three men ahead of the election and received commitments to run the party in a statesmanlike way. In return, Netanyahu pledged to take a more active role in the party, starting by meeting Likud mayors on Tuesday.
The prime minister also reached out to his party's activists by ruling out a merger with former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu that the activists strongly oppose. In closed conversations, Netanyahu said that just like rumors ahead of the last election that he intended to merge Likud with Ehud Barak's Indepedence Party were untrue, reports that he wanted to merge with Yisrael Beytenu were nonsense.
For security reasons, Netanyahu voted from his residence in Jerusalem. The candidates for the top jobs spent the day campaigning from polling station to polling station.
Danon told reporters at a polling station in Rishon Lezion that he hoped the day after the election, his party's ministers would stop fighting.
"We are in the same faction and the same boat," Danon said. "We have to work together after the race. We will have to get along."
Elkin said that "what matters is that the Likud institutions are coming back to life."