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Moshe Feiglin runs again – this time he could actually win
Guest Post by Rafi Farber
Late Sunday night, Netanyahu announced that, along with internal elections to choose a new Likud Central Committee and local representatives, the chairmanship of the party itself would be up for grabs. Moshe Feiglin answered the challenge immediately and announced his candidacy. Bibi v Feiglin round IV is now set for January 31, 2012.
All the political pundits in Israel immediately started asking why Netanyahu was doing this. Army radio, Galei Tzahal as they call it here, was abuzz with speculation. Political commentators shot off a bunch of sophisticated columns in all the newspapers explaining that Netanyahu is doing this to “take advantage of his popularity”. I will tell you now that this is false, and I will explain exactly why.
Back in April 2010, the Likud, for the first time in 10 years, was about to have elections to choose a new Likud Central Committee. Netanyahu fought really hard to postpone them because he knew at the time that if they happened back then, he would lose control of the LCC to the right wing of his party who reject him. Eventually the case got to the Supreme Court, those “guard dogs of democracy” as they call themselves, who allowed him to push off democratic elections. In the meantime, Netanyahu’s goal was to strengthen his base in the party by signing up a bunch of people who would vote for him in the next primary.
During that time, there has a been a deluge of even more new Likud members to the right of Bibi, voters that don’t exactly like his whole “building freeze” and uprooting and expulsion of Jewish towns like Migron and Havat Gilad these past few months, not to mention his handing over Hebron to the Arabs and signing the defunct Wye Accords.
And who was Bibi able to sign up to his side during this time? Pretty much nobody.
When Feiglin first for ran for Likud Chairman in 2003, he got 3% of the vote. When he ran again in 2005, he placed 3rd at 13% of the vote, more than quadrupling his previous support. When he ran again in 2007, he doubled again and got 24% of the vote. And that was back before all these new people signed up to the party.
Bibi is not doing this because he’s trying to “take advantage of his popularity”. Within the Likud party membership, he has very little. What he’s actually doing is preparing the ground to jump ship.
He knows he doesn’t have the numbers for the overwhelming victory he desperately needs to secure his place at the head of Likud. He knows we’re too strong by now. He knows that Feiglin will get at least 30-35% of the Likud vote, and that’s being conservative. If Feiglin scores that low in this next election, it will still be a high enough percentage for Bibi to say, “Well, these Feiglinites are too strong. We have to get out of here and form a new Kadima II with Ehud Barak.”
This is not just speculation. The cover story of Monday’s Israel HaYom newspaper daily was, “Netanyahu: I did not guarantee refuge for Barak.”
They know it’s in the back of his mind.
If Feiglin scores any higher than 30-35%, and he likely will, Netanyahu will run out of Likud as fast as possible. What will happen then? I guess we’ll all find out, but the party will be left to Feiglin.
The other possibility is that Feiglin outright wins the election. Any of these three possibilities spell the same conclusion. Netanyahu is on his way out of the party. That’s why he’s doing this now. He needs a new party with Barak to continue his plans to break left.