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Likud primary results: Netanyahu rival Gideon Sa’ar places high on ticket

Gideon Sa’ar finishes third, despite the reported campaign against him • Israel Katz first on the party ticket, followed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein • Controversial MK Oren Hazan booted by voters; former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat finishes sixth.

Gideon Sa'ar. March 4, 2018. Credit: Ziv Koren/Wikimedia Commons.
Gideon Sa'ar. March 4, 2018. Credit: Ziv Koren/Wikimedia Commons.

The Likud’s Knesset ticket rounded into shape on Wednesday after most of the votes from the party’s primary election on Tuesday night were counted.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz finished first on the party ticket, followed in second by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Gideon Sa’ar, the formerly retired Likud minister and rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, received the third highest number of votes. Netanyahu’s spot as party leader was not up for vote.

From Sa’ar’s perspective, finishing in the top five despite Netanyahu’s reported inner-party campaign against him was a resounding success. On the other hand, Netanyahu can take solace in the fact that Sa’ar did not finish first, and that his alleged “putsch” against the prime minister was essentially thwarted.

The voting indicates that Likud voters didn’t fall completely in step with Netanyahu. Aside from their support for Sa’ar, they elevated candidates such as former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (sixth place) and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (seventh place). Meanwhile, controversial Knesset member Oren Hazan was left off the ticket, along with Communication Minister Ayoub Kara and Knesset members Nava Boker, Anat Berko and Yehuda Glick.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan finished in fourth, while Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev was the highest-ranking woman on the list in fifth place.

Rounding out the top 10 are party newcomer Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant, formerly of the Kulanu Party (eight); Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (ninth); and former Shin Bet security agency chief Avi Dichter (10th).

Additionally, Netanyahu’s request to allow him to choose three candidates independent of the primary election (in the 21st, 31st and 36th slots) was apparently accepted, in all likelihood to help facilitate a possible merger with other right-wing parties.

Levin told Army Radio on Wednesday morning that “the result expresses the position of a very broad public and our biggest mission is to leave the Netanyahu-Sa’ar conflict on the side.”

Also speaking to Army Radio, Berko said: “Even if I wasn’t elected, it’s not the end of the world. I gave a term of four years to the public, and I don’t regret it for a second.”

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