Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that along with internal Likud party elections scheduled on January 31, the chairmanship of the ruling Likud Party itself will be up for grabs as well. The move is seen as an attempt by Netanyahu to solidify his power in the party, but what may be an attempt to strengthen his position could potentially backfire on him as Likud activist and Jewish Leadership faction head Moshe Feiglin announced he will once again challenge Netanyahu for the leadership of Israel’s ruling party.
Since the last time the two faced off in 2007, when Feiglin won an impressive 24% of the vote, thousands of Feiglin’s ideological allies have joined the Likud party for the purpose of pulling the party in Feiglin’s direction. In addition, with Feiglin’s allies in the Likud Central Committee numbering 120 and almost certain to at least double with the election of a new Likud Central Committee on the same day, Netanyahu could actually lose a substantial amount of power in the party by revealing just how strong his internal political rivals are.
Silvan Shalom, another of Netanyahu’s Likud rivals from the left, has announced that he will fight the move for early elections in court, in protest of Netanyahu’s breaking of the Likud Constitution which mandates that elections for the head of the party be held no earlier than 6 months before a general election, which isn’t scheduled until March 2013.
If Shalom loses his appeal, then Feiglin and Netanyahu will face off for a fourth time, and we will once again find out just how strong Feiglin’s position in the Likud party actually is. Even if Netanyahu wins, if Feiglin makes a strong showing, the embarrassment to Netanyahu may put his future as head of Likud into question.