Netanyahu aims to ease Likud primary election fight

PM considers changing party rules to enable current ministers and MKs to get reelected; several ministers may be left off next Knesset list.

Netanyahu votes in Likud primary 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu votes in Likud primary 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is considering changing the rules inside his Likud party in order to enable more of the party’s current ministers and MKs to make the next Knesset, sources close to Netanyahu said Wednesday.
According to the party’s current rules, the 27 Likud MKs must compete for the first 19 slots on the party’s Knesset slate. The next dozen slots are reserved for new candidates representing different regions and sectors.
The Likud Central Committee will meet next Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds for a convention that will decide the date for the Likud primary and what changes should be made to the system for deciding the party’s candidates.
Netanyahu's associates said he may decide to start the reserved slots later on the list or to have fewer regions and sectors to make it easier for ministers and MKs to get reelected.
Besides the 27 Likud MKs, former minister Tzahi Hanegbi is running and current Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter may decide to join the race. It is also possible that Likud activist Moshe Feiglin could win one of the slots rather than a current MK.
Feiglin, who in the past acted as a kingmaker for politicians in the party, decided to instead focus on getting himself elected. His Manhigut Yehudit ideological group will not endorse candidates or campaign against any contenders.
In the past three elections, Netanyahu used legal action and political maneuvers to prevent Feiglin from entering the Knesset. Feiglin expressed optimism that Netanyahu has learned from past experience that blocking him did not end up helping the Likud.
“I very much hope the prime minister does not fight me this time,” Feiglin said. “I have gotten the impression that he realizes that I can bring a lot of mandates to the Likud. The Likud already knows that the political reservoir of available votes are not in the crowded Center but on the Right.”
A battle is expected in the party over the top slots after Netanyahu, which could determine who will be senior ministers in the next government.
In the last election, they were won by Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan, who were rewarded with portfolios.
Vice premiers Moshe Ya’alon and Silvan Shalom, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Hanegbi see themselves as contenders for the top slots.
Hanegbi, who recently returned to Kadima, could be rewarded for returning to his former political home or punished for defecting seven years ago.
Rightist groups inside Likud other than Feiglin’s may try to prevent the reelection of dovish ministers Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan. Forums in Likud representing the weakest sectors of the population intend to use the election to try to punish Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for his economic policies.
Two of Steinitz’s advisers have decided to run in the race: His chief of staff David Sharan and his economic adviser Avi Simhon.
It still remained to be seen Wednesday night whether any of the Likud’s current politicians decide to follow former minister-withoutportfolio Yossi Peled and quit politics rather than compete in the race for the logjammed Likud list.