Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday officially informed the Likud faction that he intends to move up the party's primaries to January 31.
"I hereby inform you that I seek to hold party primaries for the position of Likud chairman and the party's candidate for the position of prime minister.
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"It is important that we do not give in to internal contention and that we remain free to deal with the challenges ahead," he said.
The political arena was atwitter Monday following Netanyahu's Sunday announcement that he decided to move up the Likud primaries to January 31.
The move has been criticized from both with the Likud, as well as by the Opposition, as it is believed to have one major purpose – pulling the proverbial the rug from under the feet of Netanyahu's potential rivals.
Netanyahu at the faction meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who has declared that he would run against the prime minister and seek the party's leadership, said that he would take legal action against the initiative.
The vice premier reportedly told Netanyahu that "The Likud has rules and regulations. The primaries are supposed to be held up to six months before the general elections and not two years beforehand.
"The primaries are set to take place in November 2013 and there is no real reason to move them up."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with Likud faction chairman MK Moshe Kahlon in an effort to resolve several technical issues involving his decision.
"We have a democratic party and anyone can run (for the chairman's position). We are a united party," Netanyahu told his faction. "I've spoken to every faction member and they support the move.
"We abide by the rules and we will meet the challenges ahead. I want to thank you for your cooperation in leading this country,"
The Likud caucus is expected to convene on December 15 and Kahlon is expected to present the delegates with Netanyahu's request at that time. Those opposing the bid will also present their stand and the caucus will then vote on the matter.
MK Miri Regev urged Netanyahu to allow the Likud caucus to determine the date of the primaries, saying: "The public expects a party like the Likud to hold honest and fair primaries – even if it means delaying them by a few months."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, on the other hand, said that the move was "hardly tragic," adding that he himself will vote for Netanyahu – "given the fact that he is the only candidate."
Rivlin noted that "if the political situation will demand the Likud to hold additional primaries there are ways to do so."
MK Carmel Shama voiced his support for Netanyahu's "smart and democratic" bid, while the Opposition slammed it as "yet another anti-democratic trick by Netanyahu.
"This move should prove to the majority of the public, who think Netanyahu is a bad prime minister, that he should be replaced in the next elections, so that Israel could have a better future," MK Yoel Hasson, chairman of the Kadima faction, said.
Moran Azulay contributed to this report
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