There will be no Likud leadership race any time soon, the head of the Likud’s powerful central committee, MK Haim Katz, said on Wednesday.
Katz spoke after MK Yuli Edelstein announced he would challenge former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership and urged that the race be held as soon as possible.
“The head of the Likud central committee and law committee decide when there are primaries, and both of them are me,” Katz said.
Party bylaws dictate that a leadership race is supposed to be held ahead of a general election, but it could be moved up if both the party leader and the head of its key institutions agree.
Katz led an effort four months ago to prevent Netanyahu from initiating early primaries. He was joined by several future Likud leadership contenders.
All but Edelstein have said they would wait for the post-Netanyahu era to run. They also would not mind if a bill that could prevent Netanyahu from running would pass in the months ahead.
But Edelstein decided to run anyway and try to use his early start for his advantage to distinguish himself from other candidates and obtain the support of Netanyahu opponents. He is expected to run an online campaign emphasizing that Netanyahu will no longer be able to form a government due to the strong opposition to him in his own camp, but that he could.
Such a campaign would face spending limits if it took place when the primary was formally declared. But there is currently no limit for Edelstein, whose family has plenty of funding available.
A bill sponsored by Likud MK David Amsalem that would limit spending in primaries received an endorsement from future Likud leadership contender Miri Regev. The bill is intended to harm MK Nir Barkat, who has been the front-runner in polls that asked who should succeed Netanyahu and has considerable wealth from his hi-tech fortune at his disposal.
Edelstein apparently also took into account that Netanyahu could decide to take a break from politics once the state budget passes into law next month.
A Likud MK who is not running and who supports Netanyahu said in the Knesset on Wednesday that his temporary departure is a realistic possibility.