The Likud court on Wednesday afternoon canceled the upcoming elections for party head, deciding unanimously that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the chosen candidate and would continue as chairman of the Likud.
With no one to run against him, the elections would have been between Netanyahu and a blank slip, but the controversial vote will no longer take place. According to the court, the Likud's constitution stipulates that because there is only one candidate, there is no need for primaries.
Criticism of the prime minister had been heard within the party over the last few days, regarding his insistence on guaranteeing himself another term when there is still no date for the next general elections and with no one to run against him.
Senior ministers said that it was a waste of money, with the cost of the primaries coming out at around NIS four million. They suggested holding a reduced, cheaper election.
Those around Netanyahu said that he moved forward with the primaries in order not to have to deal with intra-party issues at the same time as general elections. However, others in the Likud explained that the process was intended to head off strong candidates that may have stood against Netanyahu in the future.
However, some in the Likud also expressed concern that if primaries did not take place, it would create a legal problem ahead of the general elections – namely that any prominent candidate could petition to hold a vote on the party leadership because such a vote had not yet taken place.
Yet the same party members also cautioned that a contest featuring Netanyahu alone was problematic in terms of perception. Netanyahu has more than once boasted about the democratic process in the Likud, in contrast to other parties whose lists of MKs are drawn up by the party leader. The democratic process that Netanyahu spoke of would, with the proposed primaries, have in fact skipped over his job.
Welfare Minister Haim Katz, who is the head of the Likud's Central Committee, praised the court's decision not to hold primaries. He added that he supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his standing at the head of the party for the next general elections.