[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: If the meaning of "moderates" in the phrase
"Netanyahu will also try to draft moderates into the party's leadership from
the business sector, academia and former IDF generals" means people with
consistent records of supporting withdrawals then this could ultimately
breath life into the National Union/NRP.]
Netanyahu wins Likud primary with 73.2% landslide
gil hoffman and jpost.com staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 14, 2007
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu was reelected Likud chairman in
Tuesday's party primary, defeating the two Likud activists who challenged
him - Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon - by a hefty margin.
According to the final count, Netanyahu won 73.2 percent of the votes, while
Feiglin got 23.4% and Danon 3.4%.
A last-minute drama ensued when Netanyahu decided to hold his victory speech
in a room adjacent to the one originally agreed upon, a decision that
prompted media and reporters to refuse to cover the speech.
Reporters said they agreed to boycott the speech to protest Netanyahu's
decision, which, they said, was in contradiction with their agreement with
him from earlier that evening.
Concurrently, a radio journalist who wished to speak to Feiglin outside the
Tel Aviv premises was informed by a Likud security guard that he would be
allowed out the building, but not back in. The reporter said on air that he
could see Feiglin outside, and that security guards were withholding Feiglin
from entering the building.
Netanyahu later told an Israel Radio reporter that he did not give any
instructions to bar Feiglin from entering the building.
From midnight to 4:00 a.m. Israel Radio was quoting figures based on 80% of
the votes, adding that the Likud Central Committee had refrained from
releasing updated figures to the media for four hours. Only at 6:00 a.m.
were the final results were announced.
Despite Netanyahu's fears of a record low turnout, some 40 percent of the
Likud's 95,000 members cast ballots at the approximately 300 polling
stations across the country. The turnout was similar to the 42% who voted in
the 2005 primary between Netanyahu and MK Silvan Shalom and greater than the
34% who cast their ballots in the 1999 race between future prime ministers
Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and MK Meir Sheetrit.
"The Likud's journey back to the Prime Minister's Office has begun,"
Netanyahu said at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, where he later delivered a
victory speech after press time.
Netanyahu's associates expressed satisfaction with the turnout and said he
would now turn his attention to defeating Olmert and Labor chairman Ehud
Barak in the next general election. The Likud chief's associates also said
he would continue fighting Feiglin, possibly petitioning the High Court of
Justice to expel him and his supporters from the party. Netanyahu will also
try to draft moderates into the party's leadership from the business sector,
academia and former IDF generals, they said.
"We ended the small battle, and now we are starting the big war," a
Netanyahu associate said. "Tomorrow we start working to topple the
government and return to power."
In an effort to maximize turnout, the polls were kept open until 11 p.m.
One was even added in Eilat's hotel district, in addition to the party's
branch in the city, to allow vacationing Likudniks to vote. More than 200
vacationers voted at the station in 40-degree heat.
"People came straight out of the pool in their bathing suits, voted and went
back into the pool," the head of the polling station, Baruch Kabalo, told
The Jerusalem Post. "The turnout was more than I thought it would be. We had
the most relaxed polling station in the country. In this heat, no one has
any energy to fight."
However, skirmishes broke out in polling stations across the country, mostly
between Netanyahu supporters and Feiglin activists. Physical fights were
reported in Kiryat Ata, Sderot, Yavne and Shoham.
Feiglin's closest aide, Michael Fuah, was attacked by Israel Aerospace
Industries employees at a polling station in Shoham after he filmed some 200
of them arriving en masse on buses paid for by the head of the IAA's union,
Likud MK Haim Katz. Police were called to the scene, and Fuah filed a
complaint against the workers.
In Upper Nazareth, all the votes cast were declared invalid, because the
ballot box was removed from the building without supervision.
Danon complained about several polling stations in the North, where there
were no ballots with his name available for voters.
Feiglin supporters complained about large Netanyahu posters at a polling
station in Migdal Ha'emek. There was a massive Netanyahu advertisement on
the roof of Netanya's polling station, but the Feiglin representative there,
Ofer Asher, said he would not complain, because "we love Netanyahu, too."
Netanyahu visited the Netanya polling station after a day campaigning in
Ma'aleh Adumim, Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv. He
voted at the Jerusalem International Convention Center with his wife, Sara,
who made rare public comments urging people to vote.
Feiglin started his day by praying with a small group of supporters on the
Temple Mount. At one point a policeman scolded the group for praying too
noticeably, but the prayers passed without incident.
When Feiglin arrived to vote at the Jerusalem International Convention
Center, he was greeted by a throng of supporters including a man dressed as
clown drawing caricatures of people in return for promises to vote for
"This will be remembered as an emotional day in which Israel will return to
the people and will no longer be controlled by a leftist minority and
politicians on the Right who do their bidding," Feiglin told reporters after
he voted. "We are on a journey toward victory. I don't know if the journey
will end today but it is
a big step along the way."
The three candidates set up tents outside the convention center.
Netanyahu's tent played the Likud anthem, while Feiglin's blasted his
jingle, which is a parody of the Likud anthem that was recorded by singer
Ariel Zilber especially for the race.
Danon voted at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds and visited polling stations in
Herzliya, Ramat Hasharon, Petah Tikva, Lod and Jerusalem. A Likud activist
named Nir who represented Danon at the Netanya polling station said many
Likud members approached him there and told him they were glad the World
chairman had decided to run, so there would be a "sane ideological candidate
to vote for."