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Likud cheers as Netanyahu returns, but polls tell another story

The Israeli prime minister's triumphant return from New York was topped off by the Likud's festive New Year celebration, leaving Benjamin Netanyahu feeling stronger than ever — at least within his own party.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departs after meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, U.S. September 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSPE08
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“Netanyahu is undoubtedly at one of his strongest points in the Likud,” a senior Likud minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity the evening of Sept. 26, upon returning from the party’s annual toast for the Jewish New Year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only speaker at the event, and the minister's statement is an accurate reflection of Netanyahu’s show of power that evening. He stood alone at the top of the party’s hierarchy. Even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon didn’t enjoy such stature at the height of his own power in the Likud. He was, of course, challenged by none other than Netanyahu, who was busy with his large base of supporters doing all he could to replace Sharon.

Before Netanyahu’s plane had landed after his visit to the United States, over a thousand party activists were already waiting for him in the crowded hall in Kfar Maccabiah. They were understanding about having to wait for hours, a wait that grew even longer when Netanyahu finally arrived. Before they saw him enter the hall, he shut himself off in a private side room to freshen up, put on his makeup and go over his long speech. He corrected and improved it, erased and added to it, until he thought it was the perfect text. Only then did he step out to the crowd.

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