Netanyahu faces leadership test in Likud vote today

Poll finds Labor could beat him, Livni meets with Herzog, Lapid.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem October 7 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem October 7
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Likud’s 3,700 central committee members are to vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal for how to elect the party’s Knesset candidates Wednesday, in a test of his leadership, taking place at a critical time.
Netanyahu is facing a potential challenge from his former No. 2 in the Likud, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, who must decide by Sunday whether to join the party’s leadership race.
The prime minister must also deal with an unexpectedly strong fight from Labor.
A Midgam poll broadcast Tuesday on Channel 10 found that if Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni runs with Labor, it will win 22 Knesset seats compared to 20 for the Likud under the leadership of Netanyahu or Sa’ar.
Livni met Tuesday separately with Labor chairman Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid. She looked into the possibility of running together with former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon.
The former justice minister is expected to announce her decision about her political future by the end of the week.
She has said her main objective in her choice will be to ensure Netanyahu’s defeat.
At a sparsely attended Likud central committee meeting in Ariel Tuesday night, party activists almost succeeded in canceling Wednesday’s secret ballot vote and instead holding an open vote by a show of hands already on Tuesday.
Netanyahu did not speak at the meeting, but he is expected to vote Wednesday. Polls are to be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in polling stations in 10 cities across the country.
The proposal that will come to a vote would enable Netanyahu to reserve slots on the Likud list for candidates of his choosing. The Likud’s law committee met late Monday night at Jerusalem’s Crown Plaza Hotel and reached a compromise between Netanyahu supporters, who wanted him to be able to reserve three slots, and his opponents in the party, who did not want him to be given any.
The law committee decided to give the party leader the right to choose the 11th slot on the list, as well as the 23rd slot, which polls indicate the Likud is on the cusp of winning.
Netanyahu has been looking to draft well-known public figures for the reserved slots. Names released as possibilities have included former minister Bennie Begin, economist Shlomo Maoz and basketball player-turned-international- statesman Tal Brody.
According to the proposal, current MKs will be ineligible to be named to the list from the 16th slot on down, to ensure that new candidates from different regions and sectors have realistic chances to be elected to the Knesset.
The central committee is to be asked to move up the Likud leadership race from January 6 to December 31, a move Netanyahu requested that was seen as an attempt to harm Sa’ar’s chances. Netanyahu wants the election for the party’s candidates to take place the same day, unlike in years past when they were chosen in a separate vote.
The two candidates who have already announced that they will challenge Netanyahu are MKs Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon. Feiglin launched his race Tuesday to activists in Sderot.
“I decided to open my campaign in Sderot because it’s a symbol of the mistake of [the 2005] disengagement [from Gaza], the failure to provide security and the country’s socioeconomic problems,” he said.
Former Likud MK Ayoub Kara expressed outrage Tuesday with a decision by the Likud’s law committee to place a slot reserved for a minority candidate 24th on the list. He said that when he ran in the past, he won the Likud 23,000 votes in Druse villages, but when he did not run, the party received just 500 Druse votes.
“In the proposal, the party hacks didn’t find room for the non-Jewish slot among the first 20 candidates,” Kara complained. “They reserved slots only for the hacks. Putting a Druse candidate high on the list is an important message to the world that the Jews embrace minorities who support Israel and serve the country.”