The two leaders of the Bayit Yehudi Party, Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, contended Sunday over a proposed constitution for the party that would give special powers to the party chairman.
Until Sunday, most of the MKs in the Bayit Yehudi faction were endorsing the draft constitution in line with Bennett’s wishes. Until now the only MKs who had criticized it publicly were backbenchers Moti Yogev and Yoni Chetboun, but Ariel sent a sternly- worded letter Sunday to Bennett and central committee members in Bayit Yehudi and the Tkuma Party. Ariel heads Tkuma, which ran as part of Bayit Yehudi in last year’s election.
“I know we are in favor of unity and merging, but unfortunately we haven’t even managed to meet consistently over the past 10 months, and the stalling does not look coincidental,” Ariel wrote. “The attempt to pass a constitution under pressure is unnecessary and improper before we work on a merger.”
Ariel vigorously denied rumors he heard from party activists that he had already accepted a reserved slot immediately after Bennett on Bayit Yehudi’s list in the next election.
“That is completely untrue,” he said. “I did not ask for that nor receive it. Whoever [claims to have] reached that deal with me should reveal himself.”
Ahead of the last election, Bennett told people in closed conversations that he would run together with Ariel and without more extreme MKs Arye Eldad and Michael Ben- Ari. He made the predictions, later proven correct, long before a deal was reached with Tekuma.
The new constitution would give Bennett the right to select his own Knesset candidate every five slots on the list. His candidates would not have to go through primaries like the rest of the list.
There would be slots reserved for women but not for new immigrants. The Bayit Yehudi central committee, that used to choose all of the party’s Knesset candidates, would only pick a candidate for the 10th slot.
Bennett would have the right to merge Bayit Yehudi with other parties. The central committee would need a two thirds majority to block it.
Bayit Yehudi’s constitution committee, headed by Rabbi Danny Tropper, has been working on the draft for months.
Based on a hope that Bayit Yehudi will one day become a ruling party, the constitution is to determine what should happen if the party leader were to form the government and how the party’s ministers would be selected.
The 22-page document calls for different numbers of points to be given to party members’ top selections for MKs.
Individuals who committed crimes involving moral turpitude will not be accepted as members of the party.
Bayit Yehudi manager Nir Orbach, who is close to Bennett, praised the constitution in a letter to party activists. He stressed that it was not final, and that central committee members could still change it ahead of a central committee meeting that is expected to pass it over the next two months.