Netanyahu says primaries result shows Likud ‘is the people’s party’

PM calls on low-ranked moderate candidates to stay with him, as hardliners celebrate; Labor brands the list ‘extremist’

A Likud supporter outside the Kfar Saba Likud polling place on Nov 26, 2012. (photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)
A Likud supporter outside the Kfar Saba Likud polling place on Nov 26, 2012. (photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

The marked rightward swing of the Likud’s Knesset list for January’s elections, as a result of Monday’s party primaries, drew sharp criticism from the Israeli left-wing overnight Monday, with MKs calling the reshuffle of party candidates a worrying prospect. Within Likud, though, the results were largely hailed as a cause for triumph.

“Likud is a right-wing party and need not pretend to be anything else,” said MK Yariv Levin, who won 11th slot in the primaries. “This [result] is a vote of confidence in the notion that the Likud ought to rule according to our path.”

Environment Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who placed third, rejected critics’ alarm at the rise of hardliner Moshe Feiglin, who seems certain to become an MK, saying that the possible comeback of disgraced former prime minister Ehud Olmert was “much more dangerous” than the prospect of Feiglin entering the Knesset.

“This is just the beginning,” Feiglin said of his strong showing. Eventually, Channel 10 quoted him as saying, “we will build the temple on the Temple Mount and fulfill our purpose in this land.”

Such comments were fodder for left-wing opponents like Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich, who called the new Likud party list an “extremist” one that excludes social welfare-minded candidates, and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, who called Likud’s list “worrisome.”

The Kadima party — many of whose members broke off from Likud — issued a statement saying that “Feiglin and his friends have completed their takeover of Likud” and that “Likud has ceased to represent the sane, liberal nationalist party.”

Likud party veteran Limor Livnat, a former minister who was pushed down to the 18th spot on the party list, bemoaned the practical ousting of Begin and Meridor from Likud. “The quality of the party’s list has definitely suffered,” she said.

Her view was not universally accepted within the party, however.

“Likud has chosen the best list to lead the party forward,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon (eighth place). “This list has people who have proven themselves as ministers and MKs. I am sorry that my friends [Dan] Meridor and [Benny] Begin are ‘out,’ but this is what the voters wanted.”

Veteran ministers Meridor and Begin could indeed fail to win reelection to the Knesset, though adjustments to the list could possibly elevate Begin, at least, to a more realistic position.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put a positive spin on the results, claiming that the primary elections proved that “Likud is the people’s party.”

But he also seemed to concede the danger of the party appearing too far from the center, appealing to Meridor and Begin to remain active in the party. Turning to the veterans in a personal appeal, Netanyahu said, “We grew up together in Jerusalem, and we were raised together on the values of Jabotinsky. I promise you, I will guard those values in the next Knesset. I want you [there] at my side!”

MK Zahava Gal-On, the head of the leftist Meretz party, declared the liberal Likud party of yore “has breathed its last… It’s scary to think what is going to happen here if the Likud stays in power.”

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