Netanyahu and Danon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mingled with activists at Wednesday night’s Likud convention who voted to give Likud central committee chairman and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon increased powers.
Netanyahu continued his recent efforts to bolster his standing with his party’s central committee, which began with meeting activists in recent weeks and continued with him walking through the crowd, shaking hands at the convention and giving a speech emphasizing Likud unity above all.
“[Israel] has tremendous achievements but faces tremendous challenges,” the prime minister said in Tel Aviv’s Convention Center.
“The first challenge is to continue developing our country. The second is, of course, to stand up to pressures, and there are many. The third is to block threats and ensure Israel’s future, which is something we cannot stop doing. This is possible only through unity and unity starts in this house. Unity starts in Likud,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister listed all of the party’s MKs and ministers, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who were at the conference, emphasizing again that they were all present “together for the unity of the party, because that is the key to the unity of the nation.”
Then, citing his efforts to talk to the common man, Netanyahu said “sometimes I talk to Israeli citizens, whether at a shwarma stand or at Mimouna celebrations or other places and this is what I hear from them: The nation wants a strong, united Likud. It trusts us and wants us to continue to lead in our path.”
Danon commented on Netanyahu’s actions, saying: “I’m happy the prime minister went out to meet you – I played a big part in that.”
As for the topic of the day – votes to give the central committee more power – Danon spoke of “raging, passionate” arguments with Netanyahu on the issue, but said that such disagreements are democratic and the source of the party’s power.
“Everything comes from love and is for the good of the party,” he said. “Some asked if I won or the prime minister won, but I say Likud won.”
In the end, Likud activists approved a compromise between Danon and Netanyahu, consisting of decisions to hold elections for internal party positions within a month and four more votes this year on the issues of diplomacy and security, the socioeconomic situation, the partnership with Yisrael Beytenu and choosing the way the party list for the Knesset is elected.
Danon originally wanted to be able to call central committee meetings whenever he wanted, which Netanyahu saw as an attempt to undermine his power.
The deputy minister gave credit to Shevah Stern, leader of the pro-settlement Likud Nationalist Camp, for negotiating the compromise between the two.
Netanyahu discussed current events in his speech, and received a rousing round of applause after saying “no one has the right to raise his hand against IDF soldiers,” an apparent reference to recent attacks by residents of Yitzhar on soldiers.
As for talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu pointed out that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Remembrance Day this week.
“I just saw a Hamas video clip online that’s meant for children. A young woman taught girls that when they’re older, they should shoot Jews and Zionists. That’s who Abbas wants to unite with? Whoever wants peace doesn’t unite with Hamas,” the prime minister declared.
According to Netanyahu, the source of the conflict with the Palestinians is that “Abbas won’t even talk about a Jewish state.”
“It’s important to make a statement to those who try to undermine Israel’s Jewishness and democracy,” he said. “We ensured the democratic side with Basic Laws, but the time has come to ensure the Jewish side with a Basic Law.”
Netanyahu vowed to pass a Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, “so there’s no doubt and no one can make claims against our anthem, Law of Return or national lands or other elements that make up our national existence.”