Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Hawks dominate Likud party vote

Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu
Polls show Netanyahu is likely to be Israel's new PM after the February vote

Israel's right-of-centre Likud party has elected a list of candidates dominated by hardliners for next February's general election.

Polls show that if a vote were held now, Likud would defeat the governing Kadima Party.

Monday's ballot was marred by a low turnout and technical problems which meant the voting was extended.

About 48,500 people voted using a new computerised system, representing just over 49% of the Likud membership.

We chose a new leadership for Israel
Binyamin Netanyahu

Parties in Israel put forward a list of candidates selected in internal elections who then fill parliamentary seats won by the party in the general election according to their position on that list.

Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu said: "We chose a new leadership for Israel. This is the best team that any party could have in our country."

But correspondents say Mr Netanyahu had hoped to capture some of the centre ground of Israeli politics by presenting a less hawkish profile to Likud's election list.

'Real Likud'

Among the strong performers in the primary were a former parliamentary speaker Reuven Rivlin, Benny Begin, the son of former PM Menachem Begin, and former Army Chief Moshe Yaalon - all considered hawks.

Moshe Feiglin, a settler who advocates withdrawing the vote from non-Jewish Israeli citizens, came 20th in the party list.

The party list is also dominated by supporters of Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu, who was Israel's prime minister from 1996 to 1999, has said he will focus on strengthening the Palestinian economy rather than on territorial issues and statehood that are at the centre of current Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Tzahi Hanegbi, a senior member and campaign strategist for the ruling-Kadima party, said the "real Likud" had emerged from the primary.

"Netanyahu's dream team became his nightmare. The stars are out and the rebels are in," Mr Hanegbi said.

The Israeli general election is scheduled for 10 February.

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