Netanyahu Wins by a Landslide in South; Likud MKs Call For Unity

Likud party members arrive at a voting station in Rishon LeTzion to cast their vote in the Likud Party primaries for the Likud leadership, on Thursday. (Flash90)

Amid calls for unity in the party Friday, the day after the Likud primary, Gideon Sa’ar thanked those who supported him in his bid for Likud leadership. Sa’ar congratulated Netanyahu, saying that he and his supporters were fully behind the prime minister in ensuring that the left does not take over the government. “I and my supporters will stand behind you in the general campaign to ensure a solid victory for the Likud,” Sa’ar , addressing Netanyahu, said in his concession speech.

MK Yoav Kisch, a declared supporter of Netanyahu, welcomed the prime minister’s victory as well. “Those who don’t take a chance can never win. I congratulate the prime minister on his victory. Starting Friday we work together to ensure a Likud victory.”

The final numbers showed Netanyahu winning 72.5% of the votes cast for the number one slot on the party ticket, with Sa’ar getting 27.5% – a figure analysts said did not bode well for Sa’ar’s political future as a leader to replace Netanyahu, as he was expected to get a significantly higher percentage of the vote.

In addition, only 49% of the Likud membership voted in the primary – considered in line with previous primaries, but had they voted, most of those members would likely have chosen Netanyahu, based on historical patterns.

Netanyahu did extremely well in the periphery – especially the rocket-embattled south, where local officials have criticized the government for failing to stop ongoing Gaza rocket attacks. In Sderot, 89% of party members chose Netanyahu – his best showing anywhere. He got 77% of the vote in Ashkelon, 75% in Be’er Sheva, and 75% in Dimona. Netanyahu also performed well in Yerushalayim, where he got 80% of the vote, and in Teveria, 71.5%.

Sa’ar won 7 of the 116 polling places, including in north Tel Aviv. Netanyahu won the rest of the city, but only by a small percentage. Nearly all of Sa’ar’s victories were in the Druze sector, indicating that Druze voters were still upset over Netanyahu’s support of the Nation State law.

Commenting on the results, Labor said in a statement that “the Likud is clearly out of touch with the people. The most popular party, once led by the likes of Menachem Begin, has chosen a man three times indicted on serious charges. The Likud as we knew it is finished.”