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The Likud’s Alleged Rightward Shift

In depth analysis of the Likud's final list for the Knesset (part I in a series).

Center-leaning Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor did not make it into Likud's top 20.

Center-leaning Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor did not make it into Likud's top 20.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

On the night the Likud’s top 35 candidates for the Knesset were announced, the Israeli media immediately came to several conclusions about the Likud, which it did not even attempt to veil: the Likud had decisively shifted rightward, Moshe Feiglin had conquered the Likud, and the Likud could no longer be the true Likud as Benny Begin, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor, who did not win secure spots on the list. At best these conclusions were sensationalism and at worst Leftist bias.

A Right-Wing Takeover?

The Likud’s list today is very similar to what it was in 2008 and the next Likud Knesset faction will be very similar to the current Knesset faction. Of the first 25 spots on the Likud’s list (prior to the merger of the list with Yisrael Beitenu’s) 20 are part of the current Likud Knesset faction. Several more would have been part of the first 25 (like Begin) if not for the fact that the Likud reserves about 15 spots on its list for new candidates, in this case spots 22-37.

True, some new Likud Members of Knesset like Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev Elkin and Tzipi Hotovely who comprise the party’s right flank did much better than expected and it was true that Moshe Feiglin finally earned a secure spot on the party’s list.

But Feiglin ranked only 14th in the primaries. That’s hardly conquering the party. He had already ranked 20th in the 2008 primaries and was only moved down on the list after district and demographic spots were moved up by virtue of an internal Likud court decision which changed the rules of the game after the game was over. So in a way he had already succeeded in the 2008 primaries and was simply re-elected. He is also incredibly active politically and has been for twenty years.

Elkin was previously number 20 on the list, having been elected on the first “oleh spot” (immigrants spot) on the party’s list in 2008. This time he won spot number nine. While Elkin takes pride in the fact that he lives in a caravan in Judea and Samaria he is also very close to Netanyahu. He is currently the coalition/Likud faction chairman. The 21st spot on the Likud’s list for an oleh candidate (not necessarily a “new oleh”) this time around was a safety net for him, having been put in place by Netanyahu.

Levin won in a district spot in 2008 (number 21). This time he ranked 11th. While he is a very trusted friend of settlement-based factions in the Likud, he never publicly challenge Netanyahu. He was also a member of an internal Likud committee and in the Knesset was the chair of the House committee which  controlled the flow of legislation. He was hardly an outsider to the party.

In addition to the more nationalist MKs who succeeded, many others also did well who are not ideological: Silvan Shalom (previously number 7, now number 4) supported the Disengagement. Tzachi HaNegbi was a member of Kadima, now he is number 17. Yisrael Katz (then 11, now 5), Haim Katz (then 14 now 13), Carmel Hashama Cohen (then district spot number 25, now 21) are not considered ideologically motivated Likudniks.

Miri Regev (then 27, now 14) is considered one of those extremist young MKs and she also did well, but my impression of her is that she isn’t very ideological. She was the IDF spokesperson during the Disengagement and a very ideological person would have resigned from such a position when the citizens’ army was turned against about 8,000 citizens in Gaza and the Shomron. My feeling is that she realized after the Central Committee elections in January that the settlement-based groups controlled a large bloc of votes and were well organized, so she made a decision to pander to them.

Many other more middle-of-the-road Ministers ranked high: Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan were the top vote-getters in 2008 and today, ranking 2nd and 3rd on the list; Moshe Ya’alon ranked eighth in 2008, and now seventh; Yuli Edelstein remained at number 12; Yuval Steinitz and Limor Livnat retained secure spots, despite dropping on the list (Steinitz dropped from nine to 16, and Livnat from 13 to 18).

Other Likud MKs who retained their spots included: Ofir Akunis, who won the Tel Aviv district spot at number 26 in 2008 and was 19th after this round, has traditional Likud ideology, but he is also considered “Bibi’s man”; Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is considered a liberal nationalist, but by no means an extremist remained in the top ten (fourth in 2008, now seventh); and Gila Gamliel, another Likud MK who was not considered right-wing remained at about the same place on the list, dropping from 19 to 20th.

Ayoub Kara, a Druze member of Knesset, who is considered very right-wing, won spot number 25, but that was the “non-Jewish” spot and it was practically reserved for him either by Netanyahu or with his consent. Kara is considered very close to Netanyahu and despite attending an emergency meeting for Ulpana just before the vote on “Hok Hasdara” (the “arrangement” or “regulation” law, a bill intended to save communities like Ulpana), Kara did not vote for the law.

The other new introduction to the first 22 spots on the list is Tzach HaNegbi, the former longtime Likud member who had been the Likud’s Central Committee Chairman and served as acting chairman of the party following Sharon’s departure for a short period until he too deserted. When he took up the post of acting chair he said “there are roots that can’t be uprooted” and when he left a couple of weeks later, said, “Sometimes ideological matters are diminished; it’s a personal move.” HaNegbi is the son of Lehi member Geula Cohen who in the Knesset was to the right of Menachem Begin, but he clearly lacks her ideological spine. A relic of the “political pragmatism” of Ariel Sharon, he more than balances out the introduction of Moshe Feiglin to the list.

Overall the Likud’s Knesset faction won’t be much different. Of the 22 of the first 25 spots on which sitting MKs could run, 20 are from the current faction and two are long-time and prominent Likud members. The major difference between this faction and the last is that Begin, Eitan and Meridor will be out. But can it be claimed the Likud won’t be the Likud without them? That will be the subject of the next post in the Likud’s Knesset list tomorrow.

About the Author: Daniel Tauber is a frequent contributor to various prominent publications, including the Jewish Press, Arutz Sheva, Americanthinker.com, the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. Daniel is also an attorney admitted to practice law in Israel and New York and received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. You can follow him on facebook and twitter.


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