Netanyahu's Likud chooses strong right-wing election list

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, which is predicted to win Israel's upcoming general election by a comfortable margin, selected a strong right-wing list in its primary election on Monday.

Nearly all of the top 40 picks (recent polls show that 36 of them will make it into the next Knesset) were vocally opposed to the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza implemented by their former party chief, Ariel Sharon.

The biggest winners were party veterans Gideon Saar and Ruby Rivlin, who placed #2 and #4 on the Likud list, respectively. Returning former Likud star Benny Begin also did well, securing the #5 spot.

Gilad Erdan, a young lawmaker who has made a name for himself as a defender of conservative values and Israel's right to all its biblical lands, won the #3 spot.

Netanyahu brought in a number of new and returning "stars" in order to give Likud a boost before the general election, though besides Begin, only former IDF chief Moshe Yaalon ended up with a high spot on the list at #8.

Netanyahu's other big security "star," the left-leaning retired general Uzi Dayan placed at #42, meaning he is unlikely to make it into the next Knesset.

To Netanyahu's frustration, far-right-wing activist Moshe Feiglin managed to place #20 on the list, meaning he is almost guaranteed to make it into the next Knesset. Netanyahu fears that Feiglin's outspoken Bible-based insistence that the government not surrender one inch of land and that it begin to impose strong Jewish values on the rest of the nation could hurt Likud in the upcoming election.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmet played on those fears Tuesday morning, accusing Likud of selecting an "extremist" list that would ultimately bring about Israel's demise. Olmert claimed that his former party was no longer interested in peace.

Slightly less than half of the Likud's 99,000 registered member ended up casting a ballot after a new electronic voting system that ruined the rival Labor Party's primaries last week again malfunctioned, leaving voters standing for hours in long lines.

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