Moshe Feiglin announced on Thursday that he will not be running for the leadership of Likud, the first time since 1999 that he will not be a candidate.
Feiglin’s unexpected withdrawal from the race came after a Likud appeals court decided that elections for prime minister and the rest of the party’s Knesset list will both be held on the same day, December 31. That reversed an earlier court ruling to hold the two elections on separate days.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the incumbent Likud chairman, appealed the earlier ruling, which pertained to a proposal he had initiated and which had been ratified by a Central Committee vote last week.
But after an expanded panel of judges came out in Netanyahu’s favor, Feiglin decided it was a lost cause.
“The Likud court’s decision changes the rules of the game and would require me to compete in two simultaneous races on two fronts,” Feiglin explained in statement on early Thursday morning.
“I will not drag the party to more legal battles so soon before the general election. At such a fateful time, we must unite to keep the Likud as the ruling party. So this time I intend to run only for the Knesset…” He did say that he planned to compete again for the Likud leadership at a future time.
Sources in the Netanyahu’s camp told The Jerusalem Post that holding the two races on the same day would give him the advantage of a bigger voter turnout and enable him to win by a wider margin.
Feiglin’s departure left the field to Netanyahu and MK Danny Danon. Former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar has already announced his decision not to challenge Netanyahu.
Another issue remained unresolved, that of Netanyahu’s request to reserve two slots on the Likud list for candidates of his choosing at the 11th and 23rd spots.
Various names have been mentioned as possible Netanyahu choices, including former IDF deputy chiefs of staff Yoav Gallant and Uzi Dayan.
However, former Likud minister Dan Meridor said on Wednesday that he would not accept the offer if it were made, even if it were the No. 1 spot.
“Netanyahu is leading us to nowhere,” he told the Knesset Channel. “I don’t have any interest in today’s Likud. I will not whitewash the party.”