Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emerged unscathed from the Likud primaries, taking a projected 85 percent of the vote.
Netanyahu’s lone challenger for the party leadership, former deputy defense minister Danny Danon, conceded the race on Wednesday night.
Despite some noisy opposition, the prime minister now appears to have solid backing from his party.
Although Netanyahu’s victory had been widely predicted, one surprise was the poor showing of MK Moshe Feiglin, who leads a religious right-wing faction within Likud that has been a thorn in Netanyahu’s side for several years. This time out, Feiglin failed to receive enough votes for a realistic slot on the ticket, placing only 15th. His outspoken party ally MK Tzipi Hotovely placed 26th, and some were saying on Thursday that it marks the decline of the Feiglinists in Likud.
Others were calling it foul play. Michael Pu’ah, a confidante of Moshe Feiglin, accused Netanyahu of rigging the results.
“I walked out of the vote counting in the middle of the night, after it emerged that Netanyahu had ‘fired’ observers from the vote count process,” with no one supervising the voting process,” he told Arutz Sheva.
“Netanyahu called up the judge in the middle of the night and twisted his arm to agree to this, in violation of all the promises he made to me and others.”
As a result, “there is no connection between the truth and the results of the primary. We will probably never know the truth, but I do not believe the results they are telling us,” said Pu’ah.
Unfazed by such allegations, Netanyahu on Thursday boasted of Likud’s democratic primary elections in comparison to the “dictatorships” in other parties, a swipe at Yesh Atid, where Yair Lapid picks the electoral slate.
While Netanyahu praised the experience and competence of the Likud candidates, Labor leader Isaac Herzog quipped that “You can’t take this Likud list to the grocery store to buy cottage cheese.”
“[Likud’s] is a list that offers nothing new, and will see Israel’s citizens continue to live in worsening poverty, international isolation, a serious housing crisis and growing [economic] gaps,” he said.
And whereas Netanyahu claimed that “our spirit is the true Likud spirit,” Herzog’s running mate Tzipi Livni, a former Likud cabinet minister, said, “The party I grew up in finally disappeared today.”
“The representatives that Likud now offers to Israel’s citizens are extremist, anti-social and anti-democratic. Today it’s clear that Likud is not the Likud of [former prime minister Menachem] Begin. It is the extremist Likud of Bibi [Netanyahu],” Livni charged.
The top ten vote-getters were:
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Yuli Edelstein
- Gilad Erdan
- Yisrael Katz
- Miri Regev
- Silvan Shalom
- Moshe Ya’alon
- Yariv Levin
- Tzachi Hanegbi
- Ze’ev Elkin