REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected chairman of the ruling conservative Likud Party in a primary election Tuesday. The move secures Netanyahu's position as the party's candidate for the premiership in Israel's next general elections.
Netanyahu defeated the only other candidate, Moshe Feiglin, by a wide margin. Feiglin heads the hawkish, ultra-national "Jewish leadership" stream of Likud and has challenged party leadership several times.
After midnight, with initial results showing that he won about 70% of the votes, Netanyahu declared victory and said that "the real Likud won today." He pledged to "show responsible leadership" on education, economy and security "for the sake of all citizens of the State of Israel."
Netanyahu had stopped by the voting station at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds Tuesday evening hoping to drive up poor turnout.
In recent days, party members received recorded phone messages from Netanyahu, seeking their support "so that together we can continue leading Likud and the country in our way." "If you assume I shall win and don't go to vote," the recording warned, "others will come and vote for those whose way is not our way."
-- Batsheva Sobelman
Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote during the Likud Party primary election Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. Credit: Bernat Armangue/Associated Press