Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud faction shifted further to the right on Monday, with the more moderate members of the ruling party faring poorly in a primary vote ahead of January elections.
The two-day poll, extended from Sunday after technical failures in the computerised system caused significant delays, ended on Monday night with nearly 60 percent of the Likud’s 123,000 members casting their vote.
Official results announced from the podium, with hundreds of exuberant activists cheering on the winners, showed the strength of the settler lobby, led by Moshe Feiglin, who has said that Likud needs to reassure the right.
Feiglin himself won the 14th place on the list, which will be adjusted to reflect spots reserved for regional representatives and the merger with Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu faction but almost certainly ensures him a spot in the next Knesset.
“Dear friends, this is not the end, just the beginning, until we build the Temple on the Temple Mount and fulfil our destiny in this land,” Feiglin said in a statement following his victory.
Knesset member Danny Danon, who led a number of campaigns against Arab lawmakers and attempted to promote controversial right-wing laws, told AFP that the results “prove that Likud members vote according to their loyalty to the Land of Israel and the values of the movement.”
Meanwhile liberal Likud members, most notably ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan — the first two who are part of Netanyahu’s Forum of Nine advisory group — were pushed lower down the list and are unlikely to be elected into the parliament.
“I’m very upset over the results, and think they could harm the quality of our list,” Culture Minister Limor Livnat, who came in 17th, told army radio.
Netanyahu’s position as party leader was already confirmed by Likud’s governing central committee in February.
While the rightward shift could draw votes from hawkish Israelis dissatisfied over Wednesday’s truce deal that ended eight days of conflict between Israel and Gaza militants, it could also frighten away more centrist voters in the January 22 polls.
In a speech concluding the event, Netanyahu praised the new “team.”
“This team comes from all segments of society, and represents all segments of society,” he said.
“Today it has been proved again that the Likud is the people’s party, for the people, and together we’ll continue leading Israel in the upcoming years.”
Addressing Meridor and Begin, who weren’t present in the hall, Netanyahu noted the he and them had a similar liberal political upbringing, based on the Revisionist Zionism that espoused the ideology of the original Likud movement.
“I will uphold these values in the next government that, God willing, I will form, and I want you by my side,” he said, implying he could appoint them as ministers even without being members of the Knesset.