Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared victory over Jewish Leadership faction head and long-time activist Moshe Feiglin Tuesday night, after winning 75% of votes for leader of the Likud party.
“Today the real Likud won,” Netanyahu told supporters in Tel Aviv. “We proved that our strength is our unity. We will continue to lead with responsibility for better education, economy, and security for all citizens of the State of Israel.” He also said general elections will not take place for some time.
Just half of Likud’s 130,000 eligible voters came out to vote for Likud party leader and for new members of the Central Committee. Despite what was considered a low showing – due to inclement weather and some voting station complications – it was a 10 percent higher turnout than during the last primary in 2007.
Though Feiglin’s loss was by a large majority, he did gain a couple of percentage points on Netanyahu since the last primary vote. In 2007 he earned 23.4% while on Tuesday he earned 25%.
“I think we can be proud of our percentage in these primaries,” International Director of the Jewish Leadership faction Shmuel Sackett told The Jewish Press. “we need to remember that Moshe’s opponent was a sitting prime minister whereas three years ago, that same opponent was just a regular member of Knesset. To increase one’s percentage against such odds is actually an incredible feat.”
He raised concern, however, that his supporters were purposefully thwarted in the voting. Some polling stations in Judea and Samaria – Feiglin’s stronghold – were reported to have opened two hours late due to the eligible voters list going missing. Approximately an hour before polling stations were scheduled to close, the Likud announced that voting would be extended for another hour until 11pm, to give members a final opportunity to vote. A spokesman also reported that Feiglin representatives were illegally restricted from being present during vote counting.
A Likud spokesman said voting location problems occurred outside Judea and Samaria as well, in places where Netanyahu was believed to have a greater advantage.
Some voters protested Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies in Judea and Samaria by boycotting the vote.
Feiglin expressed satisfaction with the results, saying: “More than one quarter of registered Likud members voted for me and for a Jewish state.” “All politicians and Israeli media people were surprised by the results,” Sackett said. “We plan on growing stronger from here.”