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Delayed decision on Likud-Yisrael Beytenu split boosts Netanyahu
By GIL HOFFMAN
18/12/2013
PM's representatives persuade Likud court to prevent central committee from voting to end partnership.
 
Representatives of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded Wednesday in delaying a Likud vote that could end the party’s partnership with Yisrael Beytenu.

At Wednesday night’s Likud convention, Netanyahu’s representatives persuaded an internal Likud court to prevent the party’s central committee from voting on the matter – a political victory for the prime minister, as without Yisrael Beytenu, his faction would have only 20 seats, just one more than Yesh Atid.

Netanyahu similarly persuaded Yisrael Beytenu last month to delay a decision on whether to end the alliance.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who chairs the central committee, vowed to bring the proposal to a vote in the next Likud convention, which could take place as early as February.

The crowd, which overwhelmingly opposed the merger, booed and expressed outrage over the decision.

“We are a democratic party and majority rule will decide our fate,” Danon told the central committee at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.

Danon had worked out a compromise whereby the convention would vote to oppose a future merger but the current partnership in the Knesset would be maintained. But the compromise did not prevent Netanyahu from sending representatives to the internal court to prevent the vote.

Netanyahu came to the convention and was received warmly by the sparse crowd of some 300 of the 3,600 central committee members. He delivered an uncontroversial speech in which he praised the IDF and criticized international pressure on Israel.

The central committee will vote by secret ballot at the Fairgrounds Thursday on 18 proposed changes to the Likud constitution.

The proposals include lowering membership age to 17 and recognizing the gay forum in the party.

A dozen activists spoke at Wednesday’s event and criticized the party’s leadership. Activist Ronnie Stern proposed separation from Yisrael Beytenu’s party and faction.

“We are a strong enough party without them,” Stern said.

“We don’t need an albatross on our back.”

Kfar Saba Likud activist Shlomo Madmon said the party was currently floundering but could win 40 seats in the next election if it invested in its branches and its activists.

“We need to focus on reawakening our branches and returning the fire to the eyes of the party,” Madmon said.

Haifa Likud central committee member Aviad Visoli proposed forbidding Likud ministers from voting for additional Palestinian prisoner releases until US president Barack Obama commutes the life sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

“Jonathan Pollard didn’t kill anyone,” Visoli said. “He should be freed.”
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