A new, mysterious candidate is running in the Habayit Hayehudi leadership race,
baffling contenders MK Zevulun Orlev and Naftali Bennett.
the party’s final lists for the primary, a man named Yehuda Cohen from Jerusalem
is also in the running to head the national-religious party.
Hayehudi’s election committee received several phone calls from Cohen, a
schoolteacher, in recent weeks.
“I didn’t give him much thought, because
it didn’t seem like he was serious,” a party source said, pointing out that
Cohen has not held any events or advertised his candidacy.
said she does not think Cohen is a fake candidate sent by Orlev or Bennett so
they can have additional observers in the voting booth, because he started
calling the committee to ask questions long before former candidate Science and
Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz dropped out of the leadership
Bennett’s camp said they have no idea who Cohen is, and they hope
that Orlev was as surprised as Bennett.
Orlev’s camp would not comment,
except to say the candidate does not know who Cohen is.
earlier this week, Orlev’s lawyer, Ilan Baumbach, petitioned Habayit Hayehudi’s
internal court in the name of four party members, asking to postpone the
leadership vote’s November 6 date.
Baumbach said the primary should be
postponed to allow the election committee to review the party’s 53,876 member
list again and make sure everyone’s phone number, ID number and other details
A party activist backed Baumbach’s request, saying that
hundreds of membership forms were disqualified because of minor mistakes in
credit card numbers, checks bouncing or illegible handwriting.
addition, the activist pointed out, many forms from immigrants were
disqualified, because they were only available in Hebrew and some of the new
members did not understand the instructions.
According to the activist,
far more of Orlev’s forms were disqualified than Bennett’s, and as such, the
former would benefit much more if the primary were postponed. One possible
reason for this discrepancy is that Bennett supporters had the option of
registering on his website, and people were automatically informed if they
filled out the form incorrectly.
A source on the election committee said
they warned candidates not to hand in election forms at the last minute, but
that 20,000 were submitted at 10 on the final night of the membership drive. As
such, the committee did not have time to contact everyone whose form was
The election committee source would not confirm the number
of disqualified forms.
Orlev’s spokesman said the candidate had nothing
to do with the petition, but supports its aims, while Bennett’s spokesman said
he opposes any change in the primary date.
Meanwhile, the Habayit
Hayehudi election committee legal adviser, Aviad Hacohen, slammed Baumbach’s
request in its response to the party’s court, saying that he is clearly
representing Orlev’s interests and not just a desire to have a fair
Hacohen pointed out that only Bennett and former candidate
Herschkowitz were listed as respondents in the petition, and says the
petitioners “threw mud and accusations at the members of the election committee
who work day and night with integrity and good faith so the primary is
In addition, Hacohen wrote that the petitioners did not
prove that hundreds of forms were disqualified.
“This is one of many
attempts to try to disrupt the primary, which will take place in less than two
weeks, and change the rules at the last minute,” he wrote. “All members of the
party, including the petitioners, should try to save the process and not
sabotage it by bringing up baseless claims.”
The party’s court decided
that anyone who paid to join Habayit Hayehudi but did not see his or her name on
the membership list has until October 29 at 6 p.m. to present proof of payment
and be put on the list.