Election update

PM Netanyahu easily won the leadership of Likud in the primary election against his only rival Danny Danon by 4:1. But, what most people don’t realize is that the rest of the Likud list that was elected were also mainly Netanyahu supporters and the right-wing of the party, led by Moshe Feiglin, were trounced, and he will almost certainly not be in a high enough spot on the list to be elected to the Knesset.  This will make it easier for Netanyahu to appeal to centrist voters, because he has truly finally rid himself of the potential split in the Likud party.  Now that there is a viable party, namely Bayit Yehudi under Naftali Bennett, to the right of Likud it makes no sense to split Likud in order to go further to the right.   And even if Bayit Yehudi makes inroads into the Likud’s traditional right wing base, that won’t matter, since it is almost certain that Likud will win more seats than Bayit Yehudi, and the only place for them to go will be to join a coalition with Likud under Netanyahu again.  That makes it easier for Netanyahu to appeal to  centrist voters.  Many ill-informed media label Likud as “far-right” but since Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution some years ago, that is not true!

Another major change in the electoral scene is the virtual collapse of the Shas Party, that represented the Sephardic religious minority.   Shas was run by several charismatic political leaders , but they were subservient to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, an old and enormously influential religious figure, who founded the party in 1984.  But, several things have happened, first the Party leader Arieh Deri was found  guilty in 1999 of misusing government funds when he was in office.  During his absence, Eli Yishai took over the leadership of the Party and things went well.  But, eventually Deri was released and wanted to come back to the leadership position.  It took him several years to manage this, but of course Yishai was not pleased.  Then Ovadia Yosef died in 2013 leaving a big vacuum in the leadership of Shas.  The personal animosity between the two charismatic leaders broke out into the open recently when the new elections were announced and Yishai decided to leave Shas and form his own splinter party.  In the meantime, although it was widely believed that Deri was the choice of Ovadia Yosef to lead the party, a video was released of Yosef at home making very derogatory comments about Deri, calling him a criminal.  So then Deri resigned from the Knesset (that had already dissolved) and from the leadership of the Party.  So Shas that had 11 seats in the previous Knesset has effectively self-destructed.  What this will mean for the other parties on the right is unclear.

Finally there are many familiar faces that will no longer be involved in politics.  Limor Livnat who was a Likud stalwart has given up politics and retired; Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, the only openly gay member of the Knesset, has retired; several members of Hatnua have retired in the wake of Tzipi Livni joining with Labor, including Meir Sheetrit, a veteran Israeli politician; Amram Mitzna, another Hatnua member has retired; two other Hatnua members resigned, David Tsur and Elazar Stern, leaving Livni all but alone in Hatnua; Uzi Landau, a leading member of Yisrael Beitanu, Avigdor Lieberman’s party that is having legal problems, announced his retirement from politics; finally Ehud Barak, a potential contender in the wings has announced his retirement from politics.  This winnowing out of some of the old guard leaves potential places for new faces to take their place.

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