Feiglin's fate to be decided Thursday

Initial polls indicate Likud either unaffected or only slightly hurt by Feiglin's victory.

netanyahu likud 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
netanyahu likud 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Likud's internal court will meet Thursday to determine whether to demote Knesset candidate Moshe Feiglin from his current realistic slot on the party's list for the February 10 election to one that could leave him outside the legislature. Channel 2 reported Wednesday that a majority of the judges on the court were in favor of moving down Feiglin and advancing candidates elected to regional slots, for technical reasons. If so, Feiglin would move from No. 20 on the list to the 35th slot. The reason for the demotion would be that women candidates Leah Nass, Limor Livnat, Tzipi Hotovely and Gila Gamliel, who did well enough that they did not require slots reserved for them, canceled the women's reserved slots and 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 and the others. The judges could rely on the precedent of district court cases after the party's 2002 primary that prevented then-Knesset candidate Ehud Olmert from winning the 19th slot and instead demoted him to No. 33, after the slots reserved for candidates from various regions. "It was a mishap on the part of the legal advisers," a source close to Likud chairman Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu said. "Bibi did not initiate the lawsuit, and it was not specifically aimed at Feiglin." Feiglin responded that Netanyahu should be targeting Kadima with his attacks and not him. He warned that if Netanyahu continued to fight against him, he would not enter the Knesset, because the Likud would end up with only 19 seats. In closed conversations, Likud MKs attacked Netanyahu for "inflating Feiglin" with his attacks on him before and after the primary. They said that if Netanyahu had not put Feiglin in the spotlight, he would not have won a realistic slot in the first place. Netanyahu decided on Wednesday morning to delay a celebratory meeting of the top 40 Likud candidates that had been set for Wednesday night. He had intended to unveil the party's campaign at the meeting and to distribute roles in the campaign to candidates. While a spokesman for Netanyahu first said the postponement was due to technical reasons, a source close to Netanyahu later revealed that the meeting was delayed because of lawsuits filed by Knesset candidates Ophir Akunis, Miri Regev, Vladimir Shklar and Shimon Sarel. "There were challenges going on and it didn't make sense to bring everyone together when things are still unclear," the source said. In an effort to mollify the disgruntled rival, Netanyahu met alone with his former No. 2, MK Silvan Shalom, who fell to No. 7 on the list after Shalom said Netanyahu and Feiglin both worked against him. Netanyahu reassured Shalom that he would be given a senior portfolio despite his demotion on the list. A pair of polls published in the Hebrew press on Wednesday indicated that despite Netanyahu's fears, the Likud had not been harmed by the election of Feiglin and other hawks to realistic slots on the party's list. A Dialog poll of 422 respondents published in Haaretz predicted that Likud would win 36 seats if elections were held today, up two seats from the pollster's previous poll last month. A Dahaf poll in Yediot Aharonot found that the Likud would win 31 seats, down one since a survey on November 20. The pollsters who took the surveys said they were probably taken too early for respondents to internalize the ramifications of Monday's primary and that polls taken later could better determine the impact of the Likud race's results. A Teleseker poll due to be published Thursday morning in Ma'ariv found that the Likud had lost two seats. A source close to Netanyahu said he also expected there to be a "downturn" in the polls, which he expected the Likud to recover from a few days later, when security and economic issues returned to being the main issues in the headlines.