Israel’s Likud Party has dominated recent polls and is predicted to have a good chance at forming a government after the February 10 elections, but this week’s primary results are expected to make it difficult for party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to position the party as a center-right alternative to the outgoing Kadima Party.
A sweeping win for its more hawkish members puts the party somewhat in flux. As Netanyahu attempts to court undecided centrist voters who will likely be turned off by the party’s more ideological wing, Moshe Feiglin, a West Bank settler and a big winner in the primary who has been denounced as an extremist by others in the party, hopes he can lure nationalists to vote for the party.
The Kadima Party is already using the split as ammunition. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who described the Likud Party he left a few years ago as “a party of peace,” warned that it was “a right-wing extremist party” that would isolate Israel internationally. Party leader Tzipi Livni predicted the list would “weigh down” Netanyahu.
That seems to be the take of some analysts, certainly, but others argue that the internal turmoil might help Netanyahu, making him seem less belligerent by comparison. Professor Avraham Diskin says “the very tension between Netanyahu and Feiglin demonstrates that Netanyahu is not that extreme.”