Netanyahu tells 'Post' all his MKs "except maybe one" will follow his commitment to achieving peace.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Celebrating the sidelining of his Likud nemesis Moshe Feiglin, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night, that only he would determine the party's policies no matter who was on the list.
"I am the Likud's leader, and the MKs understand that I set the policies," Netanyahu said. "All of the MKs except maybe one will follow my commitment to achieving peace and security with reciprocity.
"I will pursue this from a large Likud in a broad national-unity government, which is important for the challenges that lie ahead require the most experienced leadership, which I intend to provide."
Netanyahu's campaign to block Feiglin from entering the Knesset leaped forward on Thursday night when the party's election committee demoted Feiglin from the 20th slot on its candidates list to the 36th.
While the committee gave legal and technical reasons for the move, Feiglin said it was pure politics.
Although he had previously vowed to get such a decision overturned in internal Likud or external state courts, Feiglin announced late Thursday that he had decided not to appeal, because he did not trust the courts.
"I am not ready to be an MK thanks to the Supreme Court, which is a branch of Meretz," Feiglin told Channel 1. "I want to be an MK thanks to the voters. I call upon right-wing voters to vote Likud so the 36th slot will be realistic.
"If you let Bibi scare you away from the Likud, you will get a Likud that expels Jews. If you vote Likud, you will get a right-wing Likud with Feiglin."
Feiglin said Netanyahu's campaign against him proved that "Bibi is under pressure because he's worried that one day I'll replace him and lead the Likud and the country."
Netanyahu said the issue of where Feiglin would be on the list had been "ballyhooed" and ultimately would not make a difference.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu's associates in Likud have already started working on their next maneuver against Feiglin. Next week, they will reach a deal to merge with the Tzomet Party that would give the Likud an extra NIS 12 million in party funding and would move Feiglin further down the list.
Netanyahu's associates claimed credit not only for getting Feiglin demoted but also for preventing him from electing his allies to the next Knesset via slots on the party's list reserved for immigrants. They said his views did not match those of the Likud and that a large proportion of the members he brought into the party did so solely to vote for a right-wing Knesset slate, while they did not vote for the party.
"If Feiglin is 36th on the list, maybe his supporters will actually vote for us in the general election," a source close to Netanyahu said mockingly.
Feiglin said it was Netanyahu who was violating democratic norms. He compared him to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who ignored the results of a referendum of Likud members against withdrawing from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Feiglin loyalists pointed out that the election committee that made the decision was made up of politicians, two of whom are currently under criminal investigation. They said the only objective member of the committee, its chairman, retired judge Yehoshua Gross, decided not to vote on the matter.
The reason the committee gave for the demotion was that female candidates Leah Nass, Limor Livnat, Tzipi Hotovely and Gila Gamliel, by doing well enough that they did not require slots reserved for them, had canceled the women's reserved slots.
Therefore, those slots did not belong to the next top vote-getters on the national list - Feiglin and former MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom. Instead, slots reserved for regions would begin earlier, thus bumping down Feiglin to 36, Ratzon to 37 and Yatom to 38.
Former IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev and consultant Keren Barak won a separate appeal that moved them up on the list from 34 and 40, to 27 and 32, respectively. The committee ruled that Yatom was wrongly placed in a slot that had been reserved for women, so it moved the two women up.
The committee will decide on Friday whether to accept an appeal by Russian-born candidate Vladimir Shklar to replace Aleli Admasu in a slot reserved for an immigrant. Shklar, who won approximately 2,000 fewer votes than Admasu, claimed that the Ethiopian immigrant was ineligible to compete for the an immigrant slots because he made aliya too long ago.
Netanyahu will convene the top 40 candidates next week and assign them roles in the Likud's campaign. Those of the party's candidates who have never been MKs were invited to a similar meeting at the party's headquarters on Thursday, but Feiglin did not attend because he was only informed of the meeting at the last moment.
Netanyahu reassured European ambassadors at Tel Aviv's Dan Hotel on Thursday that his party would bring Israel closer to peace and that Kadima's policies only brought rocket attacks on Israel while pushing peace away.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni criticized Netanyahu's behavior at an event in Hod Hasharon for Kadima Knesset candidate Ze'ev Bielski.
"Kadima will choose the best list and I guarantee I won't pull any tricks or move anyone," Livni said. "Leadership means doing what you believe in regardless of what is written in the newspapers."
A Kadima spokesman responded to Feiglin's demotion by saying, "Bibi cannot cloud the fact that under his leadership, the Likud has become a right-wing extremist party. Bibi's bluff of trying to move to the center will not succeed. Whoever votes Bibi will get the extreme Right that will torpedo any chance of peace and security."
A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio on Thursday morning found that the gap between Likud and Kadima has continued to grow. It predicted that Likud would win 34-35 seats and Kadima just 20-21. The poll revealed that Labor is on the rise and would win 14 seats if the election was held now.
Shelly Paz and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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