Ruling Likud party swings to the far right in advance of Israeli general election


Israel’s ruling Likud party has taken a sharp swing to the right, with party members in a primary vote electing a slate dominated by hardliners.

Likud will compete in the January 22nd general election on a joint list with the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

The Likud representatives voted into realistic spots on the joint Likud-Beiteinu list are dominated by the extreme right of the party, closely connected with radical Jewish settlers and attempts to introduce anti-democratic legislation.

Moderate ministers and Likud veterans, such as Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, the son of former Likud prime minister Menachem Begin, were voted into unrealistic spots.

Moshe Feiglin, a settler who heads the most extreme-right faction within the Likud, Jewish Leadership, was elected to the number 15 slot. It is believed a lot of Feiglin supporters vote in the Likud primaries but actually vote for smaller right-wing parties on election day.

Likud Knesset members who criticised the supreme court as a bastion of the left-wing elite and opposed actions against illegal settler outposts were voted into high spots on the new list.

The makeup of the Likud list is an embarrassment for prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, although he put on a brave face after the primary results were announced, calling the slate “an experienced and talented team; a team that represents the entire nation”. A number of moderate candidates promoted by Mr Netanyahu failed to place in realistic spots.

It remains to be seen if Likud’s lurch to the right will affect voting preferences. A poll by Channel 10 television showed that 9 per cent of the Israeli voting public would re-evaluate their voting patterns due to a Likud shift to the right.

However, although moderate right-wing voters may now prefer a centrist party, the Likud could pick up votes from the smaller right-wing parties.

Solid majority

The overall distribution of votes between the right and left-wing blocs is likely to stay unchanged – the right bloc maintains a solid majority of about 70 in the 120-seat Knesset.

Nahum Barnea, a political commentator for the Yediot Aharonot newspaper, predicted problems for Mr Netanyahu if, as expected, he forms the next government.

“His government will be naked before the judicial system; it will be naked before foreign governments and western public opinion . . . Netanyahu is going to have to persuade voters that he is going to form a responsible, level-headed government for everyone with those people. Those are the people who are going to decide whether to attack Iran, whether to reconquer the Gaza Strip, whether to settle Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem.”

In a sign of desperation, it is even possible Mr Netanyahu will ask Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman to include a few Likud moderates on his party’s list in an attempt to redress the balance.

If there is any movement on the peace track with the Palestinians, the new Likud faction is almost certain to fight territorial concessions or a new West Bank settlement freeze.