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Danny Danon to challenge Netanyahu in Likud primaries

Former deputy defense minister says the prime minister has ‘lost the way’

Likud MK Danny Danon (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the Likud party conference at Airport City conference center near the city of Modiin on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Likud MK Danny Danon (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen at the Likud party conference at Airport City conference center near the city of Modiin on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Likud Central Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon announced Monday that he will run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the party leadership in January.

“The current Likud chairman has for some time not been on the Likud path, and I am here to return the Likud movement to the path,” Danon said at a press conference in Jerusalem. “Netanyahu is one of the longest-serving prime ministers of the State of Israel, but unfortunately he has lost the way.”

Danon will follow the example of MK Moshe Feiglin in challenging Netanyahu for leadership of the party.

Danon went on to blast Netanyahu for freezing settlement construction, releasing Palestinian prisoners, mishandling the war in Gaza over the summer, ignoring the cost of living, and turning his back on religious allies in favor of left-wing parties.

Danon and Netanyahu have butted heads on numerous occasions over the past year, culminating in the prime minister firing Danon in July after the then deputy defense minister leveled harsh criticism against the government’s handling of the war in Gaza.

More recently, the two had been haggling over the timing of the Likud primaries for much of the past month, but came to an agreement Sunday to hold the polls on January 6, following a vote on changes to the party’s constitution.

Netanyahu was angling to hold primaries on December 25, the same day as the constitutional vote, while Danon was insisting on January 28.

In early October, Channel 2 reported Netanyahu was set to introduce a series of changes to bolster his control of the Likud party and its Knesset slate, including scheduling primaries earlier than originally planned — ahead of what sources in the party said was the growing likelihood of general elections taking place within the next year.

Netanyahu is expected to win the vote for the party leadership by a wide margin.

The premier will also reportedly seek to revise party policies to allow him to reserve every 10th seat for one of his own candidates, to advance regional candidates at the expense of the national list, and to move voting on regional candidates from the national caucus to the Likud Central Committee.

These maneuvers would serve to increase Netanyahu’s control over the party list.

Despite rampant speculation that the country will hold early elections within the next year, Netanyahu has been quoted as saying “elections are the last thing the people of Israel need right now.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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