If someone had any doubt before, there is no longer any doubt: The Likud is back to being Likud. About 50,000 registered party members chose a Knesset list that reflects them: Rightist, Ashkenazi, settlement-friendly, kippa-wearing, and dogmatic on the diplomatic front. One would need to suffer from amnesia and close his eyes in order to characterize this list as centrist or moderate. Members of “The Jewish Home,” the new unstable rightist party, will easily find a new home within Likud.
Benjamin Netanyahu can keep on saying that in his view this is an excellent roster. It is doubtful whether he is even able to convince himself. With legal-diplomatic fig leaf Dan Meridor being relegated to 17th spot by the voters, with the Likud leader’s new stars, Uzi Dayan and Assaf Hefetz, failing to secure a realistic spot, and with Moshe Feiglin coming in at 20th place despite the Stalingrad-style battle waged against him by Netanyahu, it means there’s a problem.
Netanyahu has some more bad news in spots 20-29, which include some Likud “rebels” such as Ayoob Kara, Ehud Yatom, and Michael Ratzon. Meanwhile, faces such as Gila Gamliel, Yisrael Katz, and Yuli Edelstein are in the top 20. Here too it’s difficult to find centrist and moderate figures.
When Silvan Shalom is relegated to sixth spot, and when Benny Begin, Bogie Yaalon, Reuven Rivlin, and Gideon Sa’ar are what you see on the diplomatic front, Netanyahu faces a real problem.
Had the Likud chairman not invested so much effort to push Feiglin out of the list; had he not convened a press conference every few days to present new faces joining Likud and intensely promoted his list of favorites; and had the vote not been extended to 1 am after a humiliating and embarrassing day of primaries for thousands of people who waited for hours at the polling stations, we could have said: Oh well. The Likud chose its representatives in a democratic and clean fashion.
However, Netanyahu decided to get involved, to interfere, to change the charter, to send panicked late-night announcements to registered voters, and to cook up the kind of list he wanted. Late Monday it turned out that his rescue efforts failed miserably. The surgery ultimately succeeded, after the bugs in the election process were fixed, yet the patient is wounded and bleeding.
Overall, the Likudniks did what they wanted and brought back into the picture everyone who was thrown out three years ago; that is, all the “rebels” that prompted Ariel Sharon to flee Likud and establish Kadima; all those rebels that brought their party down to 12 Knesset seats in the 2006 elections.
Netanyahu issued an endorsement list, yet Feiglin’s deals were no less significant; everyone he endorsed secured a good spot – Begin, Rivlin, Sa’ar, and Erdan all played a starring role. Netanyahu’s claim that Feiglin’s deals had no influence are embarrassing, as the gap between Gideon Sa’ar, who was in Feiglin’s endorsement list, and Silvan Shalom who wasn’t on the list, is about 10,000 votes. Feiglin’s people, who stubbornly stayed at the polling stations until they were able to cast their ballots, number roughly 6,000 people more or less. Even a child can do this math.
And this leads us to the next wars: Silvan Shalom, who is fighting for second place, is convinced that he was the target of a surgical strike in recent days. Netanyahu was quick to make it clear that Shalom will be compensated with a senior portfolio and attempted to mollify him backstage, yet Shalom sat on stage and looked like he just swallowed a frog. Limor Livnat too, who was ousted as Likud’s first lady in favor of Lea Ness, Netanyahu’s endorsement, did not seem at her best. These two, Silvan and Limor, already formed an alliance against Netanyahu in the past. In the face of the humiliation they suffered, it is advisable to wait for a glorious comeback, which will not necessarily be pleasant for the chairman.
Yet not everything is dark for Netanyahu: Likud’s top 10 list is good. Sa’ar took up a key position as a prominent candidate to head Likud following the Netanyahu era. Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon, Silvan Shalom and Yuval Steinitz are superb parliamentarians. Begin is Begin, and Yaalon is a sort of security stamp. In this respect, Netanyahu has something to boast.
Should he be forming the next government, Netanyahu will have high-quality ministers. The problem is that his faction, and part of his government, could turn against him and embitter his life. The Knesset list of a party, any party, must be examined as if it’s the ruling party, which the prime minister needs to work with in order to pass fateful and less fateful decisions. In the parliamentary government system, the choice is between the lists and between the ideologies that comprise them, not only between the people who lead them.