Sharren Haskel fighting for her political life after Likud primary

Freshman MK takes on powerful minister Haim Katz, in an attempt not to be bumped down from 22nd to an unrealistic 40th place.

February 11, 2019 14:35
3 minute read.
Sharren Haskel voting in the Likud primaries

Sharren Haskel voting in the Likud primaries. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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MK Sharren Haskel came in 22nd in the Likud primaries, but is now fighting various conditions that may bump her down to 40th place, a spot that is unlikely to get her back into the next Knesset.

A confluence of several factors may leave Haskel out of the Knesset.

First, there are the regional spots on the list, which brought her down to 27th place.

Then, there is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authority to appoint three people to the Likud list – to the 21st, 28th and 36th slots – which brings her down to 29th place. Haskel is part of a petition brought by four MKs to the Likud Election Committee, calling for that authority to be revoked, arguing that Netanyahu did not adhere to the proper procedure. Netanyahu then agreed to forsake the 21st spot, which would bring Haskel up to 27th.

Haskel also says that she was hurt by the discrepancies found in the Likud primary vote count.

For example, Likud officials in Arad say 220 people voted at their polling station, whereas the results published by the party show that only 37 people did so. Of those, Haskel only received five votes, but she said that she knows of more people who voted for her there.

The freshman MK accused the Labor Party as well as fellow Likud legislator Social Services Minister Haim Katz of trying to use his influence to keep her out of the Knesset, and of being tied to the irregularities in the vote count. Katz is also behind an initiative to change the makeup of the Likud list in a way that would bump Haskel down to 39th place.

Katz, the former head of the Israel Aerospace Authority workers’ union, has long been a powerful figure in Likud, using the union to bring thousands of voters into the party. While he was thought to have less influence and fewer voters in his pocket than in the previous two primaries, he managed to usher other union representatives into the regional spots on the Likud list – such as Eti Attiya, also of the IAI union, and Pinhas Idan, head of the airport workers’ union.

In addition, there are many other candidates, both new and veteran – such as former minister and current Netanyahu nemesis Gideon Sa’ar – who received Katz’s backing and therefore have commitments to him.

Katz has also undergone a pre-indictment hearing before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. If he is indicted, he will no longer be able to serve as a minister.

Haskel called the Katz group “a threat to Netanyahu’s economic views,” and said the prime minister is “concerned that our list for the next Knesset will be too socialist.” She also said the group does not want her in the Knesset, because she is known for being an advocate for a freer economy.

The Canadian-born MK came in first place three years in a row on the “Liberty Index,” which ranks MKs who promote the free market and freedom of the individual. She proposed legislation that would limit the ability of unions to go on strike, including requiring arbitration before a strike; not allowing a strike over opening a market to greater competition; and outlawing mandatory union membership.

Haskel is also supported by the New Likudniks, a liberal group within the party – which some argue are left-wing usurpers – that brought thousands of voters to the primary. The group opposes Katz.

Katz, chairman of the Likud central committee, sent a letter to the party’s legal advisers, in the days following its primary election, to have the 25th place continue to be reserved for a new female candidate – in this case, cigarette lobbyist Keren Barak, a Katz ally. Because of additional regional spots on the list, this would push Haskel down to 39th place, which is unlikely to get her into the Knesset.

However, Haskel says the Likud’s election regulations state that if there are three women elected to spots before 25th place, then that spot is no longer reserved for a new woman – and three women were voted into higher places. In addition, Attiya, a new female candidate from the Dan district, is in 23rd place, and the rules state that if a woman is elected to a regional spot, then the place reserved for a new woman is moved down to 31st.

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