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Netanyahu loyalists rewarded by Likud primary voters, led by confidant Levin

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With 80% of Likud primary votes counted by Thursday afternoon, Likud faction director Yariv Levin leads the party’s Knesset slate, while some veteran party members appear to have been punished by voters for challenging party chief Benjamin Netanyahu.

Levin, considered the closest politician to Netanyahu, will be the party number two behind its longtime leader, who secured the top spot in June unopposed.

The counting was halted Thursday afternoon while they waited for ballots to arrive from polling stations in the north and south, a party spokesman said.

But with 80% of the votes tallied it appeared that the nearly 80,000 party members who took part in the primary rewarded politicians allied with the Likud leader, placing six loyalists in the top 10 spots.

While no lawmakers in Likud are publicly anti-Netanyahu, there is a range of how closely aligned they are with the former prime minister.

Final tallies are expected later Thursday afternoon, but the Knesset slate will take longer to shake out, as candidates’ appeals and special appointments by the party leader are expected.

Levin is considered Netanyahu’s righthand in the Knesset, managing faction business and politics. Most recently, Levin — helped by Yoav Kisch, who also placed in the top 10 — managed Knesset dissolution negotiations with the coalition on behalf of the Likud-led opposition. Levin is also the brain behind the party’s judicial reform agenda, and has advocated for it since his days as a lawyer.

Kisch had backed Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, now the New Hope party chair, in his unsuccessful 2019 bid to take over the helm of Likud from Netanyahu. But since then he has worked to........

© The Times of Israel

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