Binyamin Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom
agreed that the latter would follow the newly elected chairman in a meeting on Tuesday night at a Tel Aviv
In final election results, Netanyahu won 44.4 percent of the vote, followed by Shalom with 33%, activist Moshe Feiglin
with 12.4% and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz with 8.7%. The turnout in the race was 44.6%.
Netanyahu promised Shalom the second-best portfolio in a Likud-led government or a government joined by the Likud. Netanyahu will bring a proposal to the Likud central committee to reserve the second slot for him, as was done for Netanyahu when he lost the Likud leadership race to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
three years ago. In return, Shalom promised to cooperate with Netanyahu ahead of the election and to help the Likud present a center-right platform that could attract new voters.
The offer to Shalom was the first of many steps Netanyahu intends to take in upcoming days to make the Likud more attractive to voters. The next step will be to find a way to expel rightist Moshe Feiglin
from the party.
"I intend to start a journey to return the Likud to the leadership of the state," Netanyahu told reporters at the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters. "I intend to unify its ranks, clean up the party from criminal and negative elements that have joined it and return it to being a force that has influence and can guarantee the future of the people and the state."
Netanyahu's associates said the reference to "criminal and negative elements" referred not only to Feiglin but to former mobsters and underworld figures who had joined the party to support Sharon. Netanyahu also intends to try to bring new people onto the Likud's Knesset list, but it might not be easy.
Former IDF chief of general staff Moshe Ya'alon
, who was seen as Netanyahu's top draft choice, told Channel 1 on Tuesday that he had no intention of joining politics until his cooling-off period from the army ends on June 1.
"The cooling-off period is important for the health of the army," said Ya'alon, who is currently serving as a fellow at the Washington Institute
in Washington, DC
. "So going into [politics] is not relevant for me right now."
Netanyahu is also said to be interested in bringing to the Likud his former aide and current Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center
Prof. Uzi Arad, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Malka and former science minister Bennie Begin.
Party officials welcomed Netanyahu with flowers as he made his first appearance at Likud headquarters since returning to the leadership on Monday. He entered the party chairman's office and extended the tenure of Likud Director-General Arik