Dec. 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Israeli Knesset member Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday
evening swept to a comfortable victory in the Likud chairmanship race.
|Israeli parliament member and former prime
minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and his wife Sara Netanyahu (R) speak to
reporters after casting their vote at a polling station in Jerusalem
December 19, 2005. (Photo:
"I came tonight to tell you Likud has started its
road back to leading the country," Netanyhau said in a speech at the Likud
headquarters in Tel Aviv after he was announced as the party's newly-elected
"During the primaries campaign I have seen a live,
vibrant, active Likud...a Likud that only grows in strength."
Netanyahu added that the Likud will go ahead together
with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, his main rival in the elections.
Shalom phoned Netanyahu late Monday and congratulated
him on his victory, vowing that despite his defeat, he would remain in the
According to Israeli TV Channel 1 poll, Netanyahu won
47 percent of the vote in the party primaries and Shalom came in second with 32
Meanwhile, far-right candidate Moshe Feiglin won 15
percent of the vote, while Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz trailed in the
fourth place with 6 percent of the vote.
Voter turnout was particularly low, with less than 40
percent of the the 128,000 party members casting their ballots.
Netanyahu, who quit Sharon's Cabinet in protest just
before Israel's summer pullout from Gaza and part of the West Bank, will head
the Likud Party in a March parliamentary election against Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, whose new centrist party, Kadima, enjoys an apparent lead. Enditem