Edelstein takes top spot in Likud primaries, with Netanyahu rival Sa’ar in 4th
The Likud Top 40

Edelstein takes top spot in Likud primaries, with Netanyahu rival Sa’ar in 4th

Party members ignore Netanyahu’s cold shoulder to Knesset speaker and former interior minister, new additions Galant and Barkat score high; controversial MK Oren Hazan pushed out

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein seen with supporters outside the Likud polling station in Jerusalem on February 5, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein seen with supporters outside the Likud polling station in Jerusalem on February 5, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Final results came in Wednesday evening for the Likud party primary held the day before, with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein taking the top spot on the list (behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was reelected as party leader in a 2016 vote), followed by Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar.

The results signaled something of a rebuke for Netanyahu by the party rank and file.

The prime minister had launched a frontal assault on Sa’ar’s candidacy after the former minister returned from a four-year hiatus, accusing Sa’ar in a pre-vote video of plotting to replace him after the April 9 election.

Netanyahu had also refused to include Edelstein, who has served as Knesset speaker since 2013, in his recommendations to primary voters.

Meanwhile the prime minister’s most prominent defenders in his corruption cases, Coalition chairman David Amsalem and his predecessor David Bitan, either failed to make gains or, in Bitan’s case, were pushed down the list, though both scored well enough to win safe slots on the Likud slate.

And Netanyahu’s former chief of staff David Sharan, a suspect in the “Case 3000” submarine graft probe, was beaten by Sa’ar ally Michal Shir for regional representative for Tel Aviv (#31 on the party’s Knesset slate).

Following Sa’ar to round out the new Likud top ten were Culture Minister Miri Regev, Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant (who recently defected from the Kulanu party), Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, a newcomer to national politics, and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.

Gideon Sa’ar casts his vote at the Tel Aviv Likud polling station in the Likud primaries on February 5, 2019. (Flash90)

Some 119,000 Likud party members were eligible to vote in a complicated ranking system for national and district candidates in 113 polling stations across the country. Fifty-eight percent of those eligible eventually voted, a jump from the 52% turnout in the last primaries held in 2014.

To obtain the final election slate, the list of primary winners is combined with reserved positions elected in special regional races, as well as minority candidates given guaranteed slots.

Positions reserved for regional candidates are at slots 19, 22, 23, 27, 31, 35, 36 and 39; three appointments at Netanyahu’s discretion are at 21, 28 and 38 (the right to make the appointments was granted by a 56% majority of the party’s membership in Tuesday’s primary, with 32% opposing); three slots reserved for new women candidates are at 23, 33 and 37; positions are reserved for a new immigrant at 30, a minority candidate at 32 and a young candidate at 34.

The top 40 Likud candidates for the April 9, 2019 elections, as selected in party primaries on January 5, 2019:

1. Benjamin Netanyahu
2. Yuli Edelstein
3. Yisrael Katz
4. Gilad Erdan
5. Gidon Sa’ar
6. Miri Regev
7. Yoav Galant
8. Yariv Levin
9. Nir Barkat
10. Gila Gamliel
11. Avi Dichter
12. Ze’ev Elkin
13. Tzachi Hanegbi
14. Ofir Akunis
15. Chaim Katz
16. Tzipi Hotovely
17. Yuval Steinitz
18. David Amsalem
19. Pinchas Idan (Shfela region)
20. Amir Ohana
21. Netanyahu appointee
22. Ofir Katz (Galilee region)
23. Eti Atiah (Dan region and a new female candidate)
24. Yoav Kisch
25. David Bitan
26. Keren Barak (new female candidate)
27. Shlomo Karai (Negev region)
28. Netanyahu appointee
29. Miki Zohar
30. Avraham Neguise (new immigrant)
31. Michal Shir (Tel Aviv region)
32. Mulla Petin (minority)
33. Kati Shitrit (new female candidate)
34. Mai Golan (youth candidate)
35. Uzi Dayan (coastal region)
36. Netanyahu appointee
37. Ariel Kallner (Haifa region)
38. New female candidate
39. Jerusalem region candidate
40. Sharren Haskel

Notably, the spots below the 25th spot are not yet locked, as questions remain regarding the interpretation of various aspects of the reserved spots. Party courts will rule on outstanding questions in the coming days.

In its most optimistic polls, Likud is expected to win no more than 34 Knesset seats.

A total of 69,719 voters cast ballots, each ballot composed of a list of 12 preferred candidates, for a total of 836,628 candidate votes cast, though no candidate can win more than 69,719.

In total, 142 candidates competed for the top spots on the electoral slate, all hoping to score high enough to ensure entry to the 120-seat Knesset. Among incumbent MKs and influential newcomers, there was intense competition for the highest spots on the ticket, which all but guarantee a position at the cabinet table.

At the other end of the results list, several sitting MKs were almost certainly pushed out of the Knesset, including Yehudah Glick, former Netanyahu Knesset appointee Anat Berko, Nurit Koren, Nava Boker and Oren Hazan.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, the only senior Likud candidate from the Druze minority, didn’t make the top 40.

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