Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation on Thursday to Likud members, who overwhelmingly voted for him to continue leading the party, and declared that the list of Knesset candidates that the faction will field is “balanced and responsible.”
With Netanyahu confirmed at the top, and with the final tally in, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is at the top of the list with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv the day after the primaries, Netanyahu declared his satisfaction with the results.
“I am happy to say that it seems the Likud has chosen a wonderful list,” he said. “Contrary to what was predicted and expected [by rivals], the Likud members chose a balanced and responsible list that will help me to continue to lead the country with responsibility, security, and success.”
Israel will hold general elections on March 17.
Netanyahu also took a dig at his former coalition partners in the Yesh Atid party where chairman Yair Lapid has the mandate to choose whoever he wants to put on the party list.
“The democracy of the Likud is superior to the dictatorships of trendy parties that spring up and then collapse like mushrooms after the rain,” he said.
MK Miri Regev rose to fifth place, making her the highest-ranking woman, ahead of the remaining winners in the top 10 on the new slate: Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, MKs Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, and MK Danny Danon.
The eleventh place on the list was reserved for Netanyahu’s personal choice.
Some leaders of the party’s rightist camp, including MK Moshe Feiglin who leads a pro-settlement faction known as “Jewish leadership” and Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely, did not win a realistic slot on the list.
Seventy candidates, including 17 MKs, ran in the party primary, vying for a slot that would give them a realistic chance to serve in the 20th Knesset.
The Likud’s main rival, the Labor-Hatnua list, said in a statement that the newly elected slate was more of the same for the governing party.
“You can’t take this Likud list to the grocery store to buy cottage cheese,” quipped Labor leader Isaac Herzog.
“We’re going to present a list that will solve the problems that face Israel’s citizens,” Herzog added. “[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.
“The party I grew up in finally disappeared today,” said Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni, a former Likud cabinet minister.
“The path of [Likud’s intellectual forebear Ze’ev] Jabotinsky was abandoned and its fortress was conquered by extremists. Likud has been held back a grade. 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 Zionist Likud of [former prime minister Menachem] Begin. It is the extremist Likud of Bibi [Netanyahu],” Livni charged.
Likud members also voted to allow the prime minister to place candidates of his own choice to slots 11 and 23 on the Knesset slate.
Late Wednesday, Danon, a former deputy defense minister dismissed from his post by Netanyahu, conceded defeat, congratulated the prime minister and called for party unity ahead of national elections set for March 17. “From the emerging results, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the election,” Danon said soon after the ballots closed. “I congratulate the prime minister and wish him success.”
Some 55 percent of the 96,651 eligible Likud voters cast their ballots Wednesday.