Analysis: Tight at the top in Bibi's Likud

Political commentators have been talking for weeks about how tight the race will be for safe spots in the December 2 Labor primary, due to polls predicting that the party's representation in the next Knesset could be cut in half. They have said that in contrast, there would be plenty of room available in the Likud. According to a Gal Hadash poll published in Yisrael Hayom on Thursday, the party will win 33 seats, compared to 28 for Kadima and 11 for Labor. But the decision made by the Likud's law committee on Thursday made the race in the Likud tighter than an oyster shell. The committee decided that every slot on the list between 20 and 35 would be reserved for women, immigrants, a young candidate or newcomers representing nine different regions and interest groups. That means that only slots 2 to 19 will be available for the party's current and former MKs and all the newcomers who have joined the party in recent weeks, not to mention Likud activist Moshe Feiglin, whom Netanyahu will have a difficult time keeping out of the Knesset. The big names have been coming to the Likud like an avalanche: Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor, Uzi Dayan, Yossi Peled, Assaf Hefetz, Miri Regev, Yechiel Leiter and perhaps still the undecided Moshe Ya'alon and Uzi Landau. But now some of them must be thinking that their decision might not have been so smart after all. With such overcrowding at the top, it is very possible that some of the big names mentioned above will end up outside the Knesset. Due to the law committee's decision, the candidate who finishes 19th in the vote, instead of being placed 20th on the list, will be No. 36. Netanyahu's associates expressed confidence that the Likud's 100,000 members would select the candidates who give the party the best chance of winning the February election. They said that because the members and not the 3,000 people on the Likud central committee are selecting the list, the candidates with the most name-recognition would be the most likely to get in. But the central committee members who signed up most of the members are still very powerful, and many of them resent all the celebrities whom Netanyahu has parachuted into the party, especially the ones with dovish views. That's why Michael Ratzon, Ehud Yatom and Gila Gamliel may make it into the Knesset while Dayan and Hefetz may not. And even Dan Meridor, who returned to the party with such fanfare on Sunday, has no guaranteed ticket back to his former seat in the parliament. So competition will be fierce, but perhaps being tighter than an oyster shell is the best way to produce a pearl.