Some settlers back Netanyahu's choice for party's immigrant spot

Letter signed by nine settlement heads cites MK Ze'ev Elkin's assistance to Gush Katif evacuees.

Zeev Elkin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Zeev Elkin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The fierce political fight for slot 21 on the Likud Knesset list, reserved for immigrants, has grown more bitter as some West Bank settlement leaders come out publicly in support of MK Ze'ev Elkin, the preferred candidate of party chairman Netanyahu. Citing his assistance to Gush Katif evacuees and his opposition to "expelling Jews from their homes," a letter signed by nine settlement heads calls on "all Likud voters to help [Elkin] win the immigrant slot." The letter comes as the latest in a series of blows to the "Jewish Leadership" faction of Moshe Feiglin, which is running long-time Likud activist Asia Entov for the position. Last week, the Likud central committee changed the primary election procedures to create a separate ballot for the immigrant candidates. The move is seen as a bid by party chairman Netanyahu to weaken the chances of Feiglin's candidate for the slot by increasing the likelihood of votes for a handful of other candidates competing for immigrant slots 21 and 30. The signatories to the letter include the outgoing mayors of Kiryat Arba and Efrat, and the sitting heads of the Gush Etzion, Hebron Hills, Samaria and Mateh Binyamin local councils. Feiglin spokesman Amnon Shomron dismissed the letter as coming out of "a slave mentality. "There's a group of people in Judea and Samaria who has supported Bibi [Netanyahu] for years, even when he says he will carry out withdrawals. They don't have the courage to support a leadership that won't pull back," he said. According to Shomron, some Gush Katif evacuees - a group of whom signed another letter of support for Elkin this week - "are genuinely grateful because Elkin helped their rehabilitation after the expulsion. But Feiglin's candidates would never have allowed the expulsion to happen in the first place." Asked about a rumor that Feiglin supporters were calling Likud members and saying Elkin had supported the disengagement - before he went to Kadima, Elkin campaigned as a Likud activist against it - Shomron insisted that "Elkin is an [Ariel] Sharon man. He wouldn't have been invited to join Kadima unless Sharon saw him as someone who could be useful." An Elkin spokesman responded that Elkin had joined Kadima because he wanted to influence the final borders of the state, which many believed would be defined during the second Sharon government. "When Tzipi Livni took over the party after saying she would divide Jerusalem, Elkin left," he said. In addition to the immigrant slot, Netanyahu told confidantes over the weekend that "if Moshe Feiglin is elected on the Likud Knesset list and [former deputy chief of General Staff] Uzi Dayan and [former Israel Police inspector general] Assaf Hefetz are not, it's a gift to Kadima."