Israel Elections: Dermer will not be Likud Knesset candidate

Netanyahu set to oppose holding Likud primary.

Ron Dermer (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAELI EMBASSY TO US‏)
Ron Dermer
Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied reports on Sunday that outgoing Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer will be given a reserved slot on the Likud’s Knesset list for the March 23 election.
Dermer is set to complete a seven-and-a-half-year term as ambassador next month, following the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden. He will be replaced by Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.
Netanyahu has the right to parachute two or three of his handpicked candidates to reserved slots on the list, according to Likud bylaws. One of the slots will go to Communal Strengthening and Development Minister Orly Levy-Abecassis.
Several names have been floated for the other reserved slots and denied by Netanyahu’s associates, including Dermer, who will be moving his family back to Jerusalem and has been very close to the prime minister for more than 15 years.
Netanyahu will instead seek to draft candidates who are household names in Israel and can increase the number of seats the Likud will win.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment. Friends of Dermer said he has not expressed interest in running for the Knesset.
“I know that it was not in his short-term plans [to run for Knesset], but Netanyahu has strong-armed him before,” a confidant of Dermer said.
The Likud’s internal court ruled on Sunday that primaries should be held for the party’s slate for the election. The court ordered the Likud Law Committee to convene by Wednesday to officially approve procedures for the primaries.
The main figures in Likud pushing for primaries are MK Nir Barkat, who believes he can win a top slot; former minister Danny Danon, who wants to return to the Knesset; and MK Ayoub Kara. Most of the Likud MKs want to keep the current list that was chosen in February 2019.
Netanyahu is expected to find a way to avoid holding the primaries, using the threat of the coronavirus and the current lockdown as excuses.
One possibility is to move women up the Likud list in place of MK Yifat Shasha-Biton and former MKs Sharren Haskel and Michal Shir.
Former Jerusalem city councilman Yair Gabai, who initiated Sunday’s internal Likud court case, said he could not celebrate the court ruling in his favor because he has reason to believe the decision will be ignored. Gabai blamed MK Haim Katz, head of the Likud Central Committee.
“Katz is sabotaging democracy in Likud and doing everything to ignore the court,” Gabai said. “I am happy with the decision, but you count the money only when you leave. There are people who treat the Likud like their own business and prevent democracy from happening.”
Omri Nahmias in Washington contributed to this report.