Likud races up in the air

Netanyahu reportedly asked Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to run for chairmanship of Likud convention, who turned him down.

Netanyahu cabinet meeting 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Netanyahu cabinet meeting 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was due to make a decision Thursday night after press time on whether he will run for the chairmanship of the Likud convention and when the race will take place.
The prime minister announced last month that he would run for the post in order to prevent the convention from giving the Likud central committee the right to decide the party’s next Knesset slate. But there were signs Thursday that he might decide to back out of the contest and ask a minister loyal to him to run instead. He reportedly already asked Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who turned him down.
Netanyahu’s associates leaked earlier this week that already on March 12 there would be races for the chairmanship of the convention, the central committee, the ideological bureau and the secretariat, which controls the party’s finances.
The news that the races could be held so fast upset multiple potential candidates who expected that they would have months to prepare before the contests would take place.
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, who wants to run against Netanyahu for the convention chairmanship, asked the Likud’s internal court for a restraining order preventing the party’s election committee from setting a date for the race.
“The election committee has no authority and is violating the Likud constitution,” Eitan wrote in his appeal. “This is not an unimportant, technical issue. It is an ugly attempt to prevent the Likud central committee from having its say.”
MK Danny Danon, who also wants to challenge Netanyahu, said he wants the election held as soon as possible because he believes he is strong in the field.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan told Netanyahu on Wednesday that he would be very upset if the races are held so soon.
Erdan intends to challenge Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz for the secretariat chairmanship, a job Katz has held for a decade.
Erdan has complained about a lack of transparency in the party’s finances during Katz’s tenure as head of the secretariat.
MK Miri Regev also intends to run for the post.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon will be challenged for re-election as central committee chairman by Ashkelon Likud activist Eli Cornfeld.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin said he was under pressure from party activists to run against Kahlon.
The ideological bureau, which is headed by former health minister Dan Naveh, has not convened since Naveh quit politics six years ago.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, MK Tzipi Hotovely and possibly Deputy Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ayoub Kara will run for the post.
Likud activist Moshe Feiglin held a rally in Rishon Lezion Wednesday night to celebrate his performance in the January 31 Likud leadership race against Netanyahu. Feiglin and his supporters declared victory at the event, even though according to official Likud numbers that he is disputing, he won 23.21 percent of the vote, down from 23.4% in the last Likud election in 2007.
Despite calls by Netanyahu in the past to boycott Feiglin, the event was attended by Katz, Erdan, Kara, Elkin, Danon, Hotovely and Regev – all of whom are considering running for posts in the Likud and require Feiglin’s support.