Netanyahu angers Likudniks by skipping convention

PM cancels participation in faction's first convention since he was booed by hawkish wing of party at similar event last year.

July 11, 2013 19:19
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Netanyahu at the President's Conference in Jerusalem, June 20, 2013.

Netanyahu at President's Conference 370. (photo credit: GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu disappointed Likud central committee members on Thursday when, in a surprise decision, he canceled his participation in the party’s long-awaited convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.

It was the first Likud convention since May 2012, when Netanyahu was booed. There were fears he would also be booed on Thursday, following a Ma’ariv headline stating that he intended to release a number of jailed Palestinian terrorists.

The headline was reproduced on flyers placed on car windows at the convention with the added banner headline “Have we gone insane?”

The official reason given for Netanyahu’s absence was a decision by the Likud’s internal court to postpone votes on changes in the Likud constitution until after the October 22 municipal election. When it became known that Netanyahu would not attend, many activists went home, leaving the hall with hundreds of vacant seats.

The only MKs who attended the convention were Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who chaired the event; Tzachi Hanegbi; Moshe Feiglin; and Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ophir Akunis.

An aide to a Likud MK said his boss had almost arrived from Jerusalem when he texted him to go home.

“First the prime minister decides he is in favor of two states for two peoples, and now he does not even bother to come hear us remind him that we in Likud are against forming another state west of the Jordan River, dividing Jerusalem and releasing terrorists from prison,” Likud Binyamin Region branch head Shevah Stern said on stage at the event.

The only boos at the convention were for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, when Danon said she wanted to form a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines.

Danon also blasted Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu – without mentioning Avigdor Liberman’s party, which is very unpopular among Likud activists who do not want to see a merger.

“I promise we will have transparency and democracy in Likud,” Danon said. “What you see here you won’t see in Yesh Atid and other parties, where they don’t know what a convention is or even what a vote is.”

Danon was cheered for saying that Israel would build in Judea and Samaria.

Likud activist Sonia Graham, an immigrant from England, complained about a group of central committee members led by Kfar Saba branch chairman Shlomo Madmon that met with Fatah leaders in Ramallah this week.

“I made aliya because of ideology,” she said. “What is the difference between Likud and Meretz and Labor if our members go to Ramallah to meet Fatah people?”

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