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BICOM: Netanyahu loyalists secure win in Likud primaries

The Likud and Labour Party held primaries this week to decide the makeup of their list to run in the Knesset election on November 1st

Source: BICOM

The Likud list: Yariv Levin, the trusted confidant of party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, came in first place. 

  • Places two and three went to Eli Cohen and Yoav Galant, both former ministers who merged with Likud from Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party in 2019. Galant is a former IDF general and campaigned successfully on his security credentials.
  • The next three slots go to outspoken supporters of Netanyahu: David Amsalem, Amir Ohana and Yoav Kish.
  • Potential future leader and former mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat is in eighth slot.
  • Miri Regev is the highest place female, followed by another Netanyahu loyalist Miki Zohar.  
  • Next is former public security minister and former head of Shin Bet Avi Dichter. Ditcher, who in the past was punished for defecting to Kadima only to return to the Likud a decade ago, now appears back in favour with the party's base.
  • The vote was less favourable to Israel Katz, the former finance minister and Yuli Edelestein, the former Knesset Speaker. Both politicians had for the last two decades consistently been in the top five, but fell to 12th  and 16th respectively. They had harboured ambitions to be Netanyahu’s successor.
  • Danny Danon returned to the party in 14th place, having served as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN.
  • After Regev, there are four other women in the top thirty, including the outspoken author Galit Distal Atbaryan (18th) and the top new woman Tali Gottlieb (23rd), a lawyer known to defend sex offenders. 
  • Former editor of Israel Hayom Boaz Bismuth is set to enter the Knesset for the first time in 25th slot. 
  • Some of the candidates who didn't secure a realistic placing and therefore are unlikely to make it into the next Knesset are former ministers Tzachi Hanegbi and Ayoub Kara, and Gilad Sharon, son of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Context: The Likud has the largest grassroots membership of all the parties. Around 80,000 Likud members voted yesterday, representing 58 per cent of eligible voters.

  • The Likud currently have 30 seats and are expected to remain the largest party in the next Knesset. 
  • This was the first internal Likud election in three and a half years, and saw the most abrupt changes to the top of their list. 
  • Overall the result is seen as a strong endorsement for Netanyahu loyalists.
  • If Netanyahu does form the next government those at the top of the list will be best placed to receive ministerial portfolios. However, based on previous experience Netanyahu has been prepared to offer the most senior positions to his coalition partners outside Likud. 
  • Beyond the list elected, Netanyahu has discretion to insert five of his own candidates into reserved slots, three of which (14, 16, 28) are considered realistic. There is speculation that he might choose Amichai Chikli and Idit Silman, the Yamina rebels that helped bring down the current government.  

The Labour list: The Labour Party held their primary on Tuesday, with votes of around 22,000 of their 40,000 members, (57 per cent) voting overwhelming support for the younger MKs.      

  • The party currently has seven seats, though it is only polling around five. 
  • Two party veterans, ministers Omer Bar-Lev and Nachman Shai appear set to be left out of the next Knesset. 
  • The top position, after party leader Merav Michaeli, went to Naama Lazimi, a-36-year-old politician with limited public exposure, known as a campaigner on social issues and the cost of living. 
  • In third place is Gilad Kariv, who represents the interests of reform and progressive Judaism and chaired the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. 
  • The rest of the realistic slots went to Efrat Rayten, chair of the Labour and Welfare Committee in the Knesset. Rayten is followed by Ram Shefa and Emilie Moatti, both young politicians that were elected in 2021 for the first time with Labour.      
  • The party list operates a ‘zipper’ system that ensures alternate female / male candidates.     
  • Similar to the Likud, the Labour list is perceived as an added endorsement of the party leader - in their case Merav Michaeli, with a reputation as a conscientious campaigner on social issues. 
  • Also like the Likud, Michaeli still has the discretion to insert two of her own handpicked candidates into the top ten.
  • Due to their weak polling, there is continued speculation that Labour could merge with Meretz to form a unified left-wing party. Michaeli has so far been resistant to such moves, but commentators have noted how this new Labour list could also appeal to Meretz voters.  

Looking ahead: On Sunday the Likud is expected to release their full list that will include the five discretionary slots that leader Netanyahu will select. 

  • Both Meretz and the Religious Zionist Parties are due to hold their primaries on August 23rd

The deadline to submit final list of candidates in September 15th.