Sa'ar big winner in primary, Dayan and Hefetz big losers

Likud members in Monday's primary rewarded faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar for his work in the Knesset over the past five years by electing him to the top slot after chairman Binyamin Netanyahu on the party's slate for the February 10 election. The victory guarantees Sa'ar a top portfolio in any government in which Likud will participate. He will return to the table where he served as cabinet secretary under prime ministers Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. Asked how he managed to win the top position, Sa'ar credited "hard work, hard work, hard work." He denied that it had anything to do with a key endorsement he received from the kingmaker in the primary, Likud activist Moshe Feiglin. He defended the candidates list against charges that it was too right-wing, saying "Right-wing is only an insult on the extreme Left's bubble, not for the general public, which holds our views." Sa'ar was followed on the list by MK Gilad Erdan, who passed the most laws in the outgoing Knesset, including landmark legislation establishing fines for smoking in public places, requiring helmets for bicycle riders and obligating motorists who leave their cars to wear yellow reflective vests. Erdan has expressed interest in serving as transportation minister. "Likud members proved that they based their votes on what their MKs have done to serve the public and not based on political deals," Erdan said. Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin finished third in the race, a showing he said was a reward for his success in returning former science minister Bennie Begin to the party and his efforts to mediate between Netanyahu and his former No. 2, Silvan Shalom. Begin, MK Moshe Kachlon, Shalom, former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon, MK Yuval Steinitz and former MK Leah Nass rounded out the top 10. Nass surprisingly unseated Limor Livnat as the party's top woman after winning the support of Netanyahu, Feiglin and MK Haim Katz, who controls a bloc of voters from the Israel Aerospace Industries union. Former justice minister Dan Meridor, who is 17th on the list, Shalom and Livnat were all harmed by Feiglin's opposition. The third woman on the list is Tzipi Hotovely, 30, an attorney who made a name for herself representing the Right on television talk shows. She was formerly an emissary in South Africa and Atlanta. Slots reserved for immigrants were won by former Kadima MK Ze'ev Elkin, originally from Ukraine, and Ethiopian immigrant Alali Adamso. Feiglin failed in his efforts to win the slots for mathematician Asya Entov, originally from Russia, and American immigrant Shmuel Sackett. There are four Sephardim in the top 20: Shalom, Kahlon, Gamliel and Hotovely. Sephardim further down on the list include Danny Danon, Miri Regev, Sagiv Asulin, Tzion Pinyan, Keti Sheetrit, Guy Yifrach and Yitzhak Danino. The religious candidates in realistic slots are Yuli Edelstein, Elkin, Nass, Hotovely, Feiglin and Yifrach. The big losers in the race were the celebrities who Netanyahu brought into the Likud, former IDF deputy chief of General Staff Uzi Dayan (Moshe Dayan's nephew), who is 42nd on the list, and former Israel Police inspector-general Assaf Hefetz, who is 38th. The most generous poll gave Likud 37 seats. "I'm not disappointed, but the public should be disappointed," Hefetz said. "I was victimized by political deals. [My not winning a higher slot on the list] will hurt the Likud and hurt the country."