World

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu wins Likud party primary ahead of March general election

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah arrive for the Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah arrive for the Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)  (The Associated Press)

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and his wife Sarah cast their vote during Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and his wife Sarah cast their vote during Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)  (The Associated Press)

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote during Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote during Likud party primary elections in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Netanyahu is looking to secure a fourth term as premier at a March 17 nation wide vote. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)  (The Associated Press)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won the backing of his hard-line Likud party in its primary and will lead it into general elections this March.

Israel Radio reported that with about 20 percent of the ballots counted early Thursday morning, Netanyahu had won the support of about 75 percent of electors, giving him an unassailable lead over challenger Danny Danon, a former deputy defense minister.

Some 100,000 Likud members were eligible to vote in the poll. Netanyahu was the heavily favored candidate in the vote.

Early opinion polls ahead of the March 17 general elections show Netanyahu's Likud party in a neck-and-neck race with a joint list headed by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnuah party.