Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to neutralize possible risks to his position of chairman of Likud, as talk grows of a rival bid from former minister Gideon Sa'ar.
On Monday night, the Likud's Constitution Committee approved a proposal by Netanyahu to hold the party's internal elections for its Knesset list and leadership on December 31.
The Likud Central Committee was to convene Tuesday in the settlement of Ariel to discuss several proposals, including Netanyahu's request to bring forward the primaries by a week from the original scheduled date of January 6. The vote on the proposals will take place on Wednesday.
Netanyahu is giving as an official reason for early primaries the desire to prepare for elections as soon as possible, but it appears that the real purpose is to obstruct a run by Sa'ar is mulling whether to bid for the party leadership.
Netanyahu's decision to bring forward the primaries, revealed by Ynet, is designed to significantly reduce the time that Sa'ar has to muster support, thereby making it difficult for him to seriously challenge the current leader.
A survey published last week included a surprising finding: In a head-to-head race between Netanyahu and Sa'ar, 43 percent of the general public chose Sa'ar, while just 38 percent preferred Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has in recent weeks made clear on several occasions that he wants to reserve spots on the list to present a more attractive set of candidates in the next election. But considerable resistance among Likud MKs led Netanyahu to cede reserved spots in the top ten of the Likud list and settle for 11th and 24th places. Spots 16, 18 and 19 are reserved for regional representatives.
The prime minister would also like to guarantee four spots among the list's first 34 places for women.