|Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press Likud Party leader and former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu arrives to vote at the party’s primary elections, in Jerusalem yesterday. Members of Israel’s hardline Likud party voted in a leadership primary yesterday, with Netanyahu assured of victory but concerned a strong showing by settler extremists could embarrass him and the party.|
Jerusalem – Early figures from the Likud primaries yesterday indicated that Benyamin Netanyahu, who graduated Cheltenham High School in June 1967, was re-elected as the Likud party head with 73 percent of the vote.
Netanyahu, who has served as deputy foreign minister, foreign minister and prime minister of Israel, beat off a passionate challenge from Moshe Feiglin, head of the “Jewish Leadership” faction of Likud, who received 23 percent of the vote. Another challenger, World Likud chairman Danny Danon, garnered 4 percent.
Feiglin had the support of a homogeneous Orthodox group of about 150 Likud “Jewish Leadership” members who campaigned throughout the country. Their platform called for stronger reaction to Arab attacks and a nation-state that would be grounded in God and traditional Jewish values.
Moshe Feiglin posters were plastered throughout Sderot, a small working class town of primarily Sephardic Jewish Israelis who live on the new civilian front line of Israel, now under daily rocket attacks from Gaza. Sderot residents were asked: Will you support Feiglin, who is calling for a stronger response to the attacks that are plaguing the city? The almost universal answer was that “Feiglin is not one of us…. Why did he not put people from Israel’s development towns who are not Orthodox, not Ashkenazi, not middle class, on his list?”
Indications are that people from Sephardic working-class towns who could have provided a swing vote for a Feiglin victory felt that Feiglin did not reach out to them and did not speak their language. In other words, people of Sderot and similar towns identified Feiglin as an Israeli WASP: a White Ashkenazic Sabra with Protexia. (“Protexia” is the Israeli term for someone who has “pull” with the Israeli establishment.)
The lesson to be learned: Any future challenger to Likud party leadership must rid himself of any Israeli-style WASP image.
Until recently, Likud led the polls as the party likely to win the next Israeli election and form the next Israeli government.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007