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Netanyahu still king of Likud

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in the Likud primaries shows that Likud seniors will not abandon the ship captained by their indicted leader.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 18: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks over his glasses as he and Education Minister Gidon Sa'ar chat at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting October 18, 2009 in Jerusalem. The cabinet have rejected a UN Human Rights Council endorsement of the Goldstone report on the Israeli campaign in Gaza as unacceptable. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sweeping victory in the Dec. 26 Likud primaries allows him to launch his next campaign for the premiership under far better conditions than prior to the September elections, even though this time, he will be under indictment for bribery. It means the Netanyahu paradox will be with us during the country’s third election of the past year.

Netanyahu not only survived in the party primaries, he dealt a knockout blow to the man who sought to replace him, Knesset member Gideon Saar (receiving 41,792 votes to Saar’s 15,585). Saar used logic to appeal to the party’s members, arguing that unlike Netanyahu, who had failed twice to form a government, he would succeed. However, he failed to convince them and his image took a severe beating. He had hoped to garner at least 35% of the vote, but ended up with only 27.5% of the vote. He now heads a camp comprised of five Knesset members out of the Likud’s 32, but is unlikely to use this support as leverage against Netanyahu — certainly not if he wants to ensure his survival in the Likud and to run again for its leadership in the future.

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