Netanyahu expected to easily win Likud primary race today

70 candidates to compete for estimated 20-25 seats in next Knesset.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Jerusalem ahead of the new year (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Jerusalem ahead of the new year
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to easily win another term as Likud leader in a race on Wednesday against his fiercest critic in the party, the deputy defense minister he fired, MK Danny Danon.
The Likud will open 600 polling stations at 115 sites across the country to enable its 96,651 members to cast ballots for the party’s leader and the rest of its Knesset candidates in the March 17 general election.
The Likud members will also vote on a proposal to enable the party chairman to reserve two slots on the list for candidates he would bring who would not have to run in the primary.
The extra vote will take place due to an internal Likud court decision on Tuesday that canceled a Likud central committee decision to grant the party leader that right.
Netanyahu sent Likud members a message by video urging them to vote. His associates said he wanted as high a primary turnout as possible in order to maximize his margin of victory.
“The March 17 election is a decisive moment for the State of Israel, and it’s important that we arrive at the general election united,” he said. “In the face of all the huge challenges Israel is facing, there is only one force that can lead the country: A large Likud against the entire Left.”
Likud comptroller Shai Galili ended his effort to prevent Netanyahu from running after the prime minister agreed to suspend Likud workers who were helping his campaign. Netanyahu will vote in the morning in Jerusalem and Danon in Tel Aviv.
Seventy candidates will vie for what polls indicate will be between 20 and 25 seats in the Knesset. The top slots are expected to go to Likud ministers Gilad Erdan, Israel Katz and Silvan Shalom and to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Netanyahu has pushed behind the scenes for his loyalists, including Intelligence Services Minister Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ophir Akunis and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi. Among women candidates, he is reportedly pushing for Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely and MK Gila Gamliel but not for MK Miri Regev.
“We feel much better than we did last time [ahead of the January 2013 election] after he was finance minister,” a source close to Steinitz said. “We believe he will improve his standing.”
Sources close to Netanyahu said placement on the Likud candidates list would not affect how Netanyahu would distribute cabinet portfolios.
When he formed his previous government, for instance, he gave a portfolio to Limor Livnat, even though three female candidates received more votes.
Channel 10 reported on several political deals between Likud MKs, including candidates recommended by supporters of MK Moshe Feiglin, who brought thousands of members into the party, and by MK Haim Katz, who has a bloc of voters from Israel Aerospace Industries who are loyal to him. The Likud has taken steps to prevent such deal-making.
Two or three current MKs are expected to be voted out of the next Knesset in Wednesday’s vote. Results of the voting are not expected until Thursday or possibly even Friday.