Netanyahu faces Likud primary election

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party held a primary election on Tuesday that pitted Netanyahu against long-time rival Moshe Feiglin.

While Netanyahu was expected to score an easy victory as the 125,000 registered Likud members went to the polls, there was widespread talk in the Israeli media regarding Feiglin's growing popularity.

Feiglin has contested the party leadership in the previous three primaries. His first run garnered Feiglin a paltry three percent of the vote. But in the last Likud primary in 2007, Feiglin won a surprising 23.4 percent to Netanyahu's 73.2 percent.

Israel's Channel 2 News reported that the shift is a result of growing frustration among Likud voters with Netanyahu's perceived surrender to international pressure to meet Arab peace demands. Many have still not forgiven Netanyahu for signing away Hebron to the Palestinian Authority in 1998 during his first stint as prime minister.

Feiglin is himself a "Jewish settler" and advocates the immediate annexation of Judea and Samaria. He opposes all further peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, and has proposed financial incentives for Arabs willing to leave Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Even a slight increase in Feiglin's vote results would be seen as a significant victory for his Manhigut HaYehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within the Likud, and would greatly influence the selection of the next Likud Knesset list.

Feiglin is confident that eventually he will be leader of the Likud and prime minister of Israel. He told reporters after voting on Tuesday that his "eventual victory will be based, among other things, on these primaries."

Channel 2 News noted that if nothing else, Feiglin is "determined...and has endless patience."

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