MK spurns 'far-leftist' Kadima to run for spot on Likud list
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Kadima MK Ze'ev Elkin, who was a constant thorn in the side of the party's leadership, announced Tuesday that he will run for the next Knesset with the Likud in an effort to harm Kadima Leader Tzipi Livni's election chances.
Elkin earned the wrath of Kadima's leaders when he was the only MK in the party who voted against Shimon Peres for the presidency. He burned his bridges on his way out of Kadima last week with a strongly-worded letter to Livni in which he accused her of shifting the party to the left of Meretz.
"I could have easily been reelected to an immigrant slot in Kadima, but I decided the best way to prevent Livni from becoming prime minister was to strengthen the Likud," Elkin said. "I know it's hard to compete in a new party just two weeks after joining. It's a big risk, but I decided to take it," he said.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu actively pursued Elkin and ensured that his party's bylaws would allow him to run for the two realistic slots on its list - at 21 and 30 - that are reserved for immigrant candidates, even though he was already an MK.
Netanyahu decided on Tuesday to hold a separate vote in the party's December 8 primary for its immigrant candidates. The Likud law committee decided late Monday night to allow Netanyahu to make that change instead of expanding the number of candidates each member could vote for beyond the current 10, as several top party activists had wanted and the Likud's MKs had vigorously opposed.
Elkin will face off against several immigrant candidates including Vladimir Shklar, a former chairman of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team who recently failed to win a seat on the Jerusalem city council, and Vladimir Herzberg, a nuclear physicist who in the last three years has run unsuccessfully for Likud leader, Beersheba mayor, chairman of the Jewish Agency and president of the World Jewish Congress.
The candidate Netanyahu is most concerned about is Asya Entov, a mathematician and writer from Karnei Shomron who is identified with far-right Likud activist Moshe Feiglin's Jewish Leadership movement.
Likud officials said the change in the voting system for immigrant candidates was an attempt by Netanyahu to block Entov from winning.
"I don't understand what Netanyahu has against me," Entov said. "I've been in Likud since 1994, before Feiglin. I have met with Netanyahu many times. I have support from forums of Russian immigrants in the party and all the camps in Likud, including Netanyahu's and Silvan Shalom's, and not just right-wing groups like Feiglin's."
Sources close to Feiglin accused Netanyahu of marring the good feelings that there had been in the party with unnecessary infighting.
They threatened to go to the High Court of Justice if Netanyahu made the change without convening the Likud central committee to approve it.
Netanyahu's associates responded that the move was merely intended to allow more people to vote for the immigrant candidates and that it had nothing to do with Feiglin.
"Feiglin thinks everything is because of him, and he thinks God told him so," a Netanyahu associate said.
MK Yuli Edelstein decided to run on the Likud's national list and not to seek an immigrant slot because he had been in the country for so long and wanted to help more recent immigrants.
"Becoming an immigrant for the purpose of the election is not fair," said Edelstein, a former immigrant absorption minister.
Separately, comedian Sefi Rivlin, a Rishon Lezion city councilman, announced Tuesday that he would also run for Knesset with Likud.
Edelstein will be supported by a political deal of Likud activists from Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and the former Gaza Strip. The other candidates the deal will support include MKs Reuven Rivlin and Gilad Erdan, former MKs Bennie Begin, Michael Ratzon, Ayoub Kara, Ehud Yatom and Leah Nass, and new candidates Moshe Ya'alon, Yechiel Leiter and Yossi Fuchs.
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