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Netanyahu begins re-election fight

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing Likud party began selecting its candidates for January's general election.

The ballot of its 123,000 members was widely seen as a snap referendum among his most loyal supporters on his handling of the latest confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu has come under fire from his own right-wingers for shying away from a land invasion, deciding instead to accept a ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the US.

Commentators have taunted Mr Netanyahu with his own criticism in 2009 of the previous government for halting "without finishing the job".

A group of reserve soldiers were reprimanded after lying down in the road to spell out the words "Bibi Loser" after the ceasefire, referring to the prime minister's nickname.

A poll published by the 'Maariv' newspaper on Friday showed 49pc of the Israeli public in general – and 68pc of voters within his own party – favoured continuing the military operation in which more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

With more than 90 candidates competing for less than 30 Likud seats, Mr Netanyahu lobbied key moderates, including several serving ministers, attempting to prevent a rightward drift and the election of Moshe Feiglin, head of the hardline Jewish Leadership faction.

The Likud is planning to run a joint list with the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) Party, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent