Netanyahu Wins Likud Primaries, Facing Down Settler Challenger

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won his Likud party’s primaries, facing down a challenge from a West Bank settler group leader, deputy Knesset speaker and party member Danny Danon said.

“The results show that the prime minister has party backing,” Danon said in a telephone interview today. With most of the ballots counted, Netanyahu was ahead with 75 percent of the votes, he said.

Danon said the party will work to ensure that Netanyahu doesn’t agree to another construction freeze in the West Bank or to evacuate Jewish settlements in the territory. Peace talks with the Palestinians stalled in September 2010 after Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month halt in building. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not return to negotiations unless all building stops.

Netanyahu, 62, is now in a position to run for a third term as prime minister. The only challenger to his Likud leadership in the ballot was 49-year-old Moshe Feiglin, the head of Likud’s “Jewish Leadership” faction. Feiglin lost to Netanyahu by a margin of almost 50 percentage points in the 2007 primary.

“The Likud is a strong party, a united, national party,” Netanyahu said in a speech last night after his victory was reported.

About 125,000 Likud members were eligible to vote at 154 balloting sites across the country, according to the party’s website.