Netanyahu endorsement builds World Likud race into ‘war’

Netanyahu is trying to unseat the incumbent Hagoel by endorsing coalition chairman Miki Zohar, who is known for his close ties with the prime minister and Likud leader.

Miki Zohar (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Miki Zohar
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dove headfirst this week into the battle over the chairmanship of World Likud, the last bastion in the ruling party that he has never controlled.
Netanyahu last tried to take over the World Likud in 2006, when he ran his confidant Yuval Steinitz for the chairmanship. But he was defeated by independently minded Danny Danon, who kept the post until he became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, handing over the World Likud leadership to his ally Yaakov Hagoel.
Now, in the upcoming July 12 race, Netanyahu is trying to unseat Hagoel by endorsing coalition chairman Miki Zohar, who is known for his close ties with the prime minister and Likud leader. A source in World Likud said Netanyahu's involvement and the greater stakes thanks to the Likud's increased size had made what was in the past an uninteresting contest into "a big war."
“This is the time for a necessary, fresh change in the national institutions,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Likud Central Committee members. “I was happy that Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar decided to run. I welcome him, and I urge you to support his list. I am sure that Miki’s election would strengthen the Likud in the national institutions and make us very influential in the Zionist Congress.”
Some 3,500 Central Committee members will be eligible to vote at 32 polling stations across the country. They will be choosing 108 people who will make up 40% of the voting body for World Likud chairperson. The other 60% come from the rest of the world, including leadership of the Zionist Organization of America.
There are seven lists running in the race, including lists headed by Hagoel and Zohar and another led by allies of MKs Haim Katz and Gideon Sa’ar. The voting body is then divided according to the percentages won.
The winner will play a major role in determining who will head key national institutions after a coalition agreement is reached in the Zionist Congress. For instance, Keren Kayemet Le’Israel could end up going to Likud.
“These are key institutions for Likud and it is important that the Likud and the prime minister be able to dominate them,” Zohar said. “We need to make sure the institutions will properly serve the people of Israel and the Likud.”
Zohar said Netanyahu would be very involved in the race, beyond the letter he wrote. He said that if he wins, he will remain in the Knesset and the top posts in the institutions would be given to top people in Likud, like Hagoel.
“Yaakov Hagoel is fitting and skilled, and ways can be found to cooperate to ensure that he will continue to serve in top posts in the national institutions,” Zohar said.
Hagoel said that he is the only candidate who understands the Jewish world, having served the Jewish people for 20 years as director-general of World Beitar and being a dominant figure in national institutions.
“I have respect for all the candidates, but I want to continue my work for the Jewish people under the guidance of what we learned from Ze’ev Jabotinsky,” Hagoel said. “I respect the prime minister, but central committee members are independent, and they will pick whoever they think will do the best job.”