Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz ride an Israel Railways train.
(photo credit: ELIYAHU HERSHKOVITZ/POOL)
A controversial vote in the Likud secretariat, the party’s governing body, will be held by telephone Sunday after the head of the secretariat, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, canceled a meeting that could have been humiliating for both him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The meeting was intended to discuss and approve Katz’s decision to backtrack from a secretariat decision on Tuesday to remove key powers from the party chairman, Netanyahu, hours after it was approved.
The decision took away Netanyahu’s powers to allocate party funds, appoint party officials and decide the terms of internal party posts. The secretariat members instead voted to give those powers to themselves.
After Netanyahu threatened to fire Katz from the cabinet, the prime minister and Katz decided to form a committee of Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron and coalition chairman David Bitan to negotiate new rules on how to manage the party and prevent the Likud’s funds from being misused.
Netanyahu and Katz also agreed that the secretariat would reconvene Sunday to cancel its decision and formally form the Shimron-Bitan committee. But Katz canceled the meeting and decided to hold the vote among the 90 members of the secretariat by phone, citing “short notice” and the fact that many of the members are on vacation abroad.
But sources in the secretariat said the real reason for the cancellation was that several members of the secretariat demanded a secret-ballot vote that could have helped them prevent the cancellation of the decision to remove powers from Netanyahu. There was likely to be strong criticism of Katz at the meeting for backing down to the prime minister.
Secretariat member Natan Engelsman said he and many other members would boycott the vote to protest the cancellation of the meeting.
“This is an undemocratic step by Katz, who surrendered to Netanyahu,” Engelsman said. “He failed to stand up to him and now he is scared to deal with the truth.
Secretariat members also will vote on a proposal by Netanyahu to appoint the current head of the Likud’s computer department, Tzuri Siso, as the party’s vice director-general. Yediot Aharonot reported that Siso publicly praised Netanyahu’s wife Sara when she was accused of mistreating workers.
The proposal that will come to a telephone vote would also cancel the appointment of Ilan Bombach as the secretariat’s legal adviser, a move seen as undermining the Likud’s attorney, Netanyahu-loyalist Avi Halevy.