Shai Galili, Likud’s comptroller, disqualified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for running for the party leadership in the December 31 primary, a move that Netanyahu disputes and is likely to appeal.
Galili said Netanyahu must answer claims that he improperly used party resources in his leadership primary run.
Likud’s election committee said in response that Galili has no authority to disqualify Netanyahu, nor does he have a good reason.
The Netanyahu campaign said in response that “the decision by the political dealer Galili is strange, motivated by irrelevant considerations and not at all binding.”
The statement added: “Electoral Committee chairman Menahem Ne’eman clearly determined that Galili’s decision was hasty, invalid and Galili was not authorized to give it.”
The prime minister is likely to appeal the decision to the Likud’s court and, if necessary, to general court.
The prime minister’s only challenger for party leader is MK Danny Danon, as MK Moshe Feiglin pulled out of the race on Thursday.
Galili described an event Netanyahu held at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv – party property – for activists and chapter leaders on December 11, with the help of party employees.
The comptroller quoted Netanyahu’s speech at the event as follows: “I want to thank my friends here, Likud members, who expressed support for me yesterday as leader of the country and Likud.... Likud members understand this election is about only one question: Who will lead the country, left-wing candidates that continue to multiply, or a broad, strong Likud government led by me, a government that will lead the State of Israel to safety, responsibly and determinedly. We will give that answer.”
Galili emphasized the phrases “support for me...
as leader” and “Likud government led by me” as problematic.
According to the comptroller, a Likud worker helped Netanyahu at a primary campaign function in Ramat Gan on December 16.
Though Galili said he did not know the source of funding for the event, he quoted Netanyahu as saying: “This is a clear election between Left and Right, between Likud led by me and Labor led by...
uh... that’s not important [emphasis in original].”
Galili explained that it is improper to have party employees help candidates, because they are supposed to be neutral in Likud primaries.
A source close to Netanyahu said the event was a general Likud function in the party’s headquarters and wasn’t part of the primary campaign, and the Likud employees mentioned in the letter are appointees – a political adviser to Netanyahu and his secretary – and as such are authorized to take part in all of his activities, including political events.
Netanyahu’s primary campaign responded that the letter is “puzzling, bizarre and baseless,” and accused “political actors with vested interests” of being behind it.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes sure in every matter to follow the law and the Likud constitution and is careful to follow all of their rules, in the primary and in any other area.
This distorted, tendentious paper will get an appropriate legal response” a campaign spokesman stated.
Moreover, Netanyahu is to face challenges in the Likud court before the December 31 primary.
Early last week, the court ruled that the leadership primary and the vote for the party’s list can be held on the same day, but Likud activists Eli Cornfeld and Ran Levy appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court.
In addition, the expanded Likud court has yet to rule on Netanyahu’s request to appoint candidates of his choosing to two slots – the 11th and the 23rd. The prime minister is considering former IDF deputy chiefs of staff Yoav Galant and Uzi Dayan, as well as economist Shlomo Maoz and former basketball player Tal Brody, who ran in previous Likud primaries.Gil Hoffman and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.