x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Israel's ruling Likud party lurches to the right

Critics say Netanyahu has lost control of the Likud to hardliners.

JERUSALEM // Hardliners in the Likud party of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, were elected into key positions in the party's governing institutions early Monday, a move that could create difficulties in making concessions to the Palestinians.

The deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, an outspoken opponent of the two-state solution, won the vote for the position of chairman of the party's Central Committee, a Likud spokeswoman said.

Another hardliner, the deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, took over the Likud bureau, which outlines party ideology.

About 78 per cent of the 3,600 members of the Likud Central Committee took part in the vote, the spokeswoman said. Likud's chairman, Mr Netanyahu, distanced himself from the process and voted from a ballot brought to his residence in Jerusalem.

Ballots were cast on Sunday, as the United States secretary of state, John Kerry, wrapped up four days of intensive shuttle diplomacy in a bid to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Mr Kerry held 13 hours of talks with Mr Netanyahu and about six hours with Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas. The American efforts ended without a breakthrough, a senior Palestinian official said, although the US secretary hailed "real progress".

After Monday's party election, Mr Netanyahu remains leader of Likud, but his power diminished when Mr Danon and Mr Elkin, seen as rebels, secured their new positions.

"Netanyahu lost the Likud", read a headline in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily, citing a senior party official who said that the premier failed to find a candidate who would run for any of the party's key posts.