The Likud released the final official tally in the party primaries on Thursday night, with Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein taking top spots behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after party members voted Wednesday.
The final Knesset slate was hailed by Netanyahu as “fantastic,” and saw most of his favored candidates placed in slots high enough to likely secure a Knesset seat, and most of those candidates he did not favor fare poorly. However, the list features only two women in the top 20 slots, and is low on Orthodox candidates and candidates favored by the settlement community, which could make Likud vulnerable to the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party. Netanyahu may choose to address this when he appoints two candidates of his own choice for slots 11 and 23 later this month.
The right-of-center ruling Likud was the first major party to declare its Knesset slate for the March elections, which showed a dramatic fall for the faction’s right wing.
Netanyahu easily won his third consecutive race for party leader in Wednesday’s vote, defeating challenger MK Danny Danon with over 80% of the vote. According to Likud officials, no one was surprised by the result — not even Danon.
In addition to the party leader race, Likud members were each asked to select 11 of the 38 candidates running for the party’s national list, as well as a candidate from their region for five dedicated regional slots.
On the final Knesset list, Erdan, who came in third in the 2012 primary behind the now-retired former cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar, won the top slot behind Netanyahu with 36,287 votes.
Just behind Erdan, at third place and with 33,900 votes, came the race’s first big surprise, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein — a steep jump from 12th place in the 2012 party primaries for the former Soviet dissident and two-time cabinet minister.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a 16-year Knesset veteran, came in fourth.
At fifth, with the race’s second major upset, came the highest-placed woman on the list, two-term MK Miri Regev, known for her outspoken and controversial remarks about Arab MKs and African asylum-seekers.
Regev said Thursday she expected to win a ministerial position in the next government — a reward the prime minister is thought unlikely to bestow. The success of Regev, who is not considered a Netanyahu loyalist, was the only significant result likely to have disappointed the prime minister, who otherwise saw his favored candidates thrive and many of his more troublesome party MKs fare poorly in a vote that restored his firm grip on Likud.
Silvan Shalom, the current energy and water minister with 23 years in the Knesset, came in sixth.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, rose one seat from his last primary showing to seventh place, disproving predictions that he would suffer for perceived weakness when overseeing the war against Hamas.
At number eight, also rising by a single slot, was Ze’ev Elkin, who served as coalition chair for five years without losing a single vote in the Knesset plenum, chaired the parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee until last week, and was Israel’s deputy foreign minister last year.
Immediately following Elkin, both in Wednesday’s primaries results and in the Foreign Ministry post, is another former FADC chair (and previously minister of health, justice, transportation and internal security), Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu. At ninth place, Hanegbi jumped ahead eight spots from to his 2012 placement.
Danon, an outspoken critic of Netanyahu who was fired from his post as deputy defense minister by the premier last year, dropped to tenth, after winning sixth place in the 2012 primary.
Slots 11 and 23 will be appointed by Netanyahu, who has until January 29 to name his appointees.
Newly appointed FADC chair Yariv Levin, a lifelong Likud man whose godfather is the party’s founder Menachem Begin, took the 12th slot.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a former finance minister and, before entering politics, Haifa University philosopher, won the 13th slot, followed at 14 by the second woman on the list, former student leader and ex-deputy minister in the PMO for youth, students and women’s issues, Gila Gamliel.
Ofir Akunis, a former Likud spokesman who now serves as deputy minister in the PMO, is 15th.
Slots 16, 18, 19, 21 and 22 are reserved for regional candidates from various parts of the country. Newcomer David Bitan took the Coastal Plain regional slot at 16.
The representative of the Galilee at no. 18, Jacky Levy, may be a newcomer to the Knesset list, but he’s no newbie in politics. He is the son of former foreign minister David Levy, and the brother of two-term Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abekasis. Based on current polling, it is likely that both Levy siblings will be serving in the 20th Knesset — albeit in competing parties.
Israel Air Force fighter pilot Yoav Kisch took the Dan Region slot at 19, David Amsalem the Jerusalem slot at 21 and Mickey Zohar Maklouf the Negev slot at 22.
At number 17, in a disappointing showing for the Likud’s most powerful union man, comes Israel Aerospace Industries Workers Union representative Haim Katz.
And in the most unambiguous sign of the extent to which Netanyahu won the Wednesday race, the 20th spot went to his ally and confidant, former Shin Bet chief and ex-Kadima cabinet minister Avi Dichter.
Numbers 24 and 27 are also reserved spots — this time for non-Jews and immigrants respectively. They were filled by longtime Likud activist Ayoub Kara of the Galilee Druze village of Isafiya and Ethiopian aliya activist Avraham Negose.
Number 25 on the list is Nava Boker, widow of Lior Boker, a senior police officer who was among the 44 dead in the Carmel Forest fire of December 2010.
At the bottom of the list — at least of the list of likely future MKs, as recent polls give Likud between 22 and 24 seats — are the two most disappointed candidates from the primaries: Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely and “Jewish leadership” faction leader MK Moshe Feiglin.
At 26, Hotovely’s fall was steep. She came in 10th in the last primary, making her the highest-placed woman in the party list.
Feiglin, at 28, came in 15th in the last primary after trying for years to make it onto the list as head of an organized, disciplined group of West Bank settlers who sought to make their voices heard in a systematic way in the ruling party.
The collapse of Hotovely and Feiglin signals a dramatic decline in the participation and influence of this faction in the party, analysts and Likud officials said Thursday.
- Israel Inside
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