Key Likud vote on primaries viewed as test of Netanyahu’s strength

Likud Central Committee members will today vote in a secret ballot to determine when Likud primaries will take place and what format they will take. The vote is viewed by many a test of party confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The vote at 10 polling stations across the country will determine whether a proposal by Netanyahu will be approved to bring forward a vote for the party’s leadership to 31 December. At present, Netanyahu’s only declared challengers for the leadership of Likud are MKs Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon. However, it is thought that former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar is mulling his candidacy, which could pose a real threat to Netanyahu’s position. Netanyahu’s suggestion to hold an early leadership vote has been interpreted as a tactic to complicate Sa’ar’s potential campaign.

At the same time, Netanyahu has also requested that the party’s primaries to determine its list of parliamentary candidates be held on the same day as the leadership vote. He also wants to reserve two electable slots on the list for candidates which he himself will select. Yediot Ahronot calls today’s vote a “test for Netanyahu.”

The Prime Minister’s popularity has also come into question following a Channel Ten poll published yesterday, concurring with a Maariv poll earlier this week, which indicated that a joint Labour-Hatnuah electoral list would beat Likud into becoming the Knesset’s largest faction. The Channel Ten poll also put Labour leader Isaac Herzog within one percentage point of Netanyahu when respondents were asked to name the most suitable prime ministerial candidate. Netanyahu has previously dominated polls questioning personal approval. Critics of the poll though said it was skewed as Gideon Sa’ar was also listed as an option, effectively dividing Likud respondents.

Nonetheless, the NRG website suggests that Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has admitted in private that his party would run jointly with Likud should polls continue to predict a centre-left bloc as the largest Knesset faction.

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