While a contentious Likud primary is expected to result in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s landslide victory over Jewish Leadership faction head Moshe Feiglin, a strong showing by the underdog has already impacted Israel’s leading party.
Voting opened at 10am on Tuesday at the 500 ballot boxes placed in 154 locations throughout the country. Polls will close at 10pm, with a winner expect to be announced at midnight. There are approximately 130,000 registered Likud voters throughout Israel who are eligible to vote for party leader, and for the new Likud Central Committee.
After casting his vote, Netanyhau told reporters: “I am asking Likud members to vote for me; if people stay at home, they will not give expression to the huge level of support for my leadership.”
International Director of the Jewish Leadership faction, Shmuel Sackett, told The Jewish Press “The members of Likud will decide today between a leader who wants to build a Palestinian state versus one who wants to build a Jewish state, between a leader who appoints Ehud Barak as Defense Minister versus one who will appoint a defense minister from inside the ranks of Likud, and between a leader who appoints leftist anti-Jewish judges to the Supreme Court versus one who will appoint judges who are strong and proud in their Jewish faith.”
Feiglin, a resident of the Samaria community of Karnei Shomron and long-time activist on behalf of Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria, hopes to improve on his August 2007 Likud primary total of 23.4%. Feiglin has made no secret of his interest in taking over the party, and expresses strong disapproval of the prime minister’s past vote in favor of relinquishing Israeli sovereignty over Gaza, forcibly evicting the Jewish communities of Gush Katif, and his current willingness to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority and create a Palestinian state in parts of Judea and Samaria.
For his part, Netanyahu is believed to have the support of the majority of Likud party members, and has enjoyed two terms as prime minister, one as Minister of Finance, and one as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He also said at a cabinet meeting in August 2009 that he would not repeat the mistake of further unilateral Israeli withdrawals, saying “the unilateral evacuation brought neither peace nor security. On the contrary.”
Negotiations between Israel and the PA on issues pertaining to creating a Palestinian state in areas governed by Israel were renewed in Amman, Jordan in the first week of January. Parties on both sides said the likelihood of negotiations leading to an agreement is minimal.