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Why Feiglin shouldn’t claim victory

It was his best chance at defeating Netanyahu, and he blew it

All three times Moshe Feiglin has run for the Likud chairmanship he has done so against Benjamin Netanyahu, and all three times he has lost.

The first time Feiglin ran in 2005, 44.6% of Likud members came out to vote. It was conducted shortly following the Likud’s split and formation of Kadima under Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu won 44.4% of the vote, edging out Silvan Shalom’s 33%. Feiglin was a distant third with about 7,000 votes, 12.4% of the overall vote. Yisrael Katz came in fourth with 8.7%.

The 2007 race for the chairmanship, conducted not long after the Likud’s historic collapse to 12 Knesset seats, garnered a lower turnout of 39.6%. Netanyahu captured 73% of the vote and won the election, while Feiglin finished second with 9,000 votes, 23.4% of the vote. Danny Danon finished third with 3.5%. Feiglin almost doubled his support percentage-wise, but most of that support can be translated to a lower number of primary voters rather than a substantial increase in votes.

The 2012 election held last week was a two-man race and the 50.4% turnout was the highest of the last three cycles. Netanyahu achieved a victory with 77%, recalling his first run as an incumbent in 1999 when he trounced Moshe Arens. Feiglin’s 14,660 votes resulted in his matching his 23% showing from 2007. Two groups cancelled each other out with the traditional Likud voters who usually sit home coming out for Netanyahu and the newest Likud members from Judea and Samaria coming out for Feiglin.

A meager show of support. Moshe Feiglin stands outside a Likud polling station in Jerusalem on January 31, 2012. (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)
A meager show of support. Moshe Feiglin stands outside a Likud polling station in Jerusalem on January 31, 2012. (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

It may be true that for Feiglin every increase is a victory, but this week’s result shows that he will never be crowned Likud’s chairman. The first reason is that Feiglin has long called for a two-man showdown. This was his golden opportunity to become an alternative to Netanyahu, and he failed. The second reason is his lack of Establishment support. Feiglin did not receive one endorsement from a single sitting or retired MK, and even Netanyahu’s many enemies refrained from supporting him. Without even a few traditional Likud supporters, Feiglin can never win, and when Netanyahu does decide to step down, there will most likely be other conservative choices for leadership, including Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, Effi Eitam, Danny Danon or others, who will split his vote. Finally, after three failed attempts at a top-to-bottom strategy, Feiglin needs to concede that running for Likud leadership when he is not a member of Knesset is simply not going to work.

This was Feiglin’s best chance to defeat Netanyahu, and he blew it. My advice to Moshe Feiglin is to either try being elected as an MK first or leave the Likud. Feiglin supporters can spin it any way they want to, but the momentum is over, and it is clear to everyone else that Feiglin has lost.

About the Author
Jeremy Saltan is a veteran Knesset Insider, Campaigner, a leading Political Analyst and serves as Bayit Yehudi's Anglo Forum Chairman. He is a regular contributor on radio and TV, a local municipality politician and is one of Israel’s top poll analysts. He has run political campaigns in English & Hebrew for municipality, party institution, primary & general elections. Jeremy’s opinion pieces have been published, quoted, appeared or credited by the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Israel National News, Jewish Press, IBA News, Voice of America, Daily Beast, France 24, Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, Daystar and Foreign Policy among others. Website: www.knessetjeremy.com and www.jeremysaltan.com