'Bibi to blame for Feiglin's success'

Top Likud figures: Not enough polling stations, Netanyahu shouldn't have drawn attention to Feiglin.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Senior figures in Likud on Wednesday morning squarely blamed the party's chairman, MK Binyamin Netanyahu, for the election of rival Moshe Feiglin to the realistic 20th slot in the party's Knesset list. They charged that had Netanyahu arranged for a larger number of polling stations around the country, Feiglin - the leader of the Jewish Leadership movement within Likud - would have been chosen to an unrealistic spot on the slate. Netanyahu's incessant involvement with Feiglin was counterproductive, they said, drawing undue media attention to a candidate who would otherwise have received far less coverage, and causing Feiglin's supporters within Likud to mobilize en masse and vote him onto the list. Netanyahu took legal steps to change the party's Knesset slate on Tuesday night, hours after the announcement of the results of Monday's primary in which hawks won big, while more dovish candidates faltered. Netanyahu's associates expressed concern that the party would take a big hit in the polls after Feiglin won the 20th spot on the list and Feiglin-endorsed candidates won 19 of the top 36 slots, defeating candidates supported by Netanyahu. In an effort to show that he has remained centrist while his party has shifted rightward, Netanyahu said at an economic forum on Thursday night that he would form the widest national unity government possible. The Likud leader sent his former aide Ophir Akunis to petition the party's internal court to advance candidates elected to slots representing districts, interest groups and women, and move down to unrealistic slots candidates elected on the national list, including Feiglin and former "rebel" MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom. "Today, we chose a new leadership for Israel," Netanyahu said in his speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds after the list was announced. "This is the best team any party can field in our country." But in closed conversations, Netanyahu said he was disappointed that Feiglin did so well. He said he had done everything possible to prevent him from winning, and he took credit for Feiglin not being higher on the list. Netanyahu also revealed that he had tried to mollify his former No. 2, Silvan Shalom, who fell to the seventh slot on the list, after five candidates endorsed by Feiglin. Shalom reportedly accused Netanyahu in their conversation of taking steps to ensure his defeat. "You tried to assassinate me politically," Shalom reportedly told the party chairman. "I complimented you everywhere recently and you purposely harmed me." Netanyahu persuaded Shalom not to boycott the announcement of the primary's results and to go up on stage together with him. Netanyahu reassured him that his cabinet appointments - if the Likud formed the next government - would not be based on the order of the Knesset list. But sources close to Shalom warned that if Netanyahu did not state publicly that he would be given a senior portfolio, he could act as an internal opposition in the party, along with other disgruntled MKs, including Limor Livnat, who lost her place as the party's top woman to Leah Nass, after Feiglin's supporters worked against her. Feiglin's allies beat Netanyahu's in races for several regional slots, including in Jerusalem, where former Finance Ministry director-general Shmuel Slavin lost to Beit Shemesh activist Keti Sheetrit, and on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where World Likud chairman Danny Danon beat former basketball star Tal Brody. Feiglin vowed to win any legal battles necessary to keep what seems to be a certain seat in the next Knesset, which he won following eight years of campaigning and working behind the scenes to become a powerful force in the party. He denied that his presence on the list would cause the Likud to lose seats in parliament. He called on supporters of parties to the right of Likud to vote for the party and even join it. "The fact that after such a flood of attacks and brainwashing against me so many Likudniks voted Moshe Feiglin proves that the entire nationalist camp should join the Likud," Feiglin said. "I didn't beat Netanyahu," he said. "The Likud won. And the primary is now in the past."