J'lem seen as microcosm for Likud race

Primary could be marred by political deals; Netanyahu allied concerned Feiglin supporters could outnumber the rest of Capitals' Likud members.

Moshe Feiglin 311  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Moshe Feiglin 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began calling Likud central committee members personally over the weekend, urging them to get out the vote in Tuesday’s party primary, sources close to the prime minister said Sunday.
Netanyahu made a point of calling key central committee members in Jerusalem, where a political deal could end up helping his competition, Likud activist Moshe Feiglin. There are 8,700 Likud members in Jerusalem, which is the party’s largest branch.
About 1,400 Likud members in Jerusalem were recruited to the party by Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit organization.
Netanyahu’s allies expressed concern that due to the deal, the Feiglin supporters who vote could outnumber the rest of the Likud members in the capital who show up at the polls.
“Netanyahu needs to make sure there are 3,000 people who come to vote in Jerusalem,” said the current head of the branch, Mishael Ben-Ami. “Even if he wins the election nationwide by a landslide, it would be a real blow if he loses in Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s enemy is not Feiglin, who is not taken so seriously. Netanyahu’s main enemy is complacency.”
No Manhigut Yehudit members from Jerusalem were elected to the central committee the last time an election was held for the committee nearly a decade ago, due to deals that were made and broken. This time, Feiglin’s supporters have made sure they will be well represented.
Feiglin’s representative in Jerusalem, Dr. Nitza Kahane, worked out a deal with a group of Jerusalem vote contractors led by Dudu Amsalem, Yisrael Yehoshua, amd Yitzhak Kaufman.
Some smaller ideological groups in the Jerusalem branch are also part of the deal.
If the deal is honored, Manhigut Yehudit and their ideological allies will control half of the Likud central committee slots from Jerusalem and 45 percent of the Jerusalem branch council. Netanyahu’s allies said it was possible the members signed up by the vote contractors would not bother showing up to vote knowing the deal made their votes in the central committee election superfluous. This would harm Netanyahu in the leadership race.
“I am out of the deal and against deals,” Ben-Ami said. “I want people to come and vote Netanyahu. There are central committee members in Jerusalem who considered riding on Netanyahu’s back in the election but instead, they made a deal and put a knife in his back.”
Ben-Ami said there were 50 similar deals in branches around the country. He said Jerusalem was a microcosm for the rest of the country.
Kahane, who is the daughter-in-law of controversial former MK Meir Kahane, downplayed the fears of Netanyahu’s allies that the deal would harm the prime minister.
“We decided not to put Feiglin in the deal, because it couldn’t work,” she said. “I wish it were true that only the Feiglin supporters would come and vote. But people will come and vote for whoever they believe in.”
Kahane said the deal was intended to ensure the revival of the Likud’s Jerusalem branch, which has had almost no political activity for nearly 10 years.
“There is a lot of hatred and bad blood in the branch,” she said. “A lot came from divisiveness in the branch. Our goal was to end the tension in the branch.”