Netanyahu likely to pass proposal advancing Likud primary

Winning unchallenged race could keep him at help of party until 2023.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to advance the next Likud leadership race to February gained momentum Sunday as most of the top Likud brass endorsed the idea.
Netanyahu has repeatedly advanced primaries in his party, officially in order to get internal procedures out of the way to concentrate later on external challenges, but also to block potential challengers from preparing.
Advancing the race will likely prevent possible challengers like former minister Gideon Sa’ar, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Transportation Minister Israel Katz from running.
“The prime minister wants to stabilize the party after passing the state budget and the gas deal,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “He wants to take advantage of the internal processes taking place in the party to get the leadership race out of the way.”
One possibility considered Monday evening was to have Likud central committee members vote on Netanyahu’s proposal to advance the primaries when they cast ballots on December 29 for the chairmanship of the Likud central committee. One possible date for the race is February 23.
Netanyahu sought advice over the weekend from Likud politicians close to him, including Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas, who served as his campaign manager in the last Likud leadership race.
The idea was endorsed by central committee chairmanship candidates Tzachi Hanegbi, David Amsalem and Haim Katz.
“The Likud as a ruling party deserves stability and governability,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Netanyahu, told reporters outside Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
But Sa’ar and Israel Katz bashed the move. Katz wrote his supporters saying that there was no reason to advance the race and that he would ensure that it would still be held on time, six months before the next general election.
“I find it hard to believe that in the midst of a terrorism wave – and on a day it hits in Ra’anana – the prime minister is dealing with his narrow political interests,” Sa’ar tweeted Saturday night.