Bennett aims for Prime Minister's Office after victory in party

Bayit Yehudi leader vows to take party to the top of the political pyramid following his success in passing a controversial party constitution.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 10, 2014 22:03
1 minute read.
naftali bennett

Naftali Bennett at a Bayit Yehudi convention at Tel Aviv University, September 10, 2014.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett vowed to take his party to the top of the political pyramid following his success in passing a controversial party constitution in a stormy convention at Tel Aviv University.

The constitution passed by a huge margin after a compromise was reached that will allow changes to be made over the next few months by a committee led by former minister Yitzhak Levy. All of Bennett's major critics accepted the compromise except for rebel MKs Yoni Chetboun and Moti Yogev.

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Bennett celebrated the political victory by reaching out to his critics and vowing to merge Bayit Yehudi with Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel's Tekuma party so the two religious Zionist parties would be united.

"We are free to lead now," Bennett told the crowd. "We are not afraid to speak our minds anymore, not on CNN and not at parlor meetings in [poor development towns like] Netivot."

Speaking in front of a backdrop of a large banner boasting of polls predicting 19 seats for the party, Bennett vowed "not to become intoxicated by positive polls."

Before the compromise was reached, Chetboun and Yogev grabbed hold of the microphone on stage in order to complain that a secret ballot vote was being unjustly prevented. Supporters of the two sides shouted at each other and shoved one another.

Chetboun complained that the values of the party were being lost and that he and his supporters were being trampled. Accusing Bennett of behaving like a dictator, Chetboun hinted that he would run against him for the leadership of the party.



"Today, the opening shot was fired," Chetboun said. "We will wake up tomorrow to a new political reality in which it will have to be decided whether we will become a secular party and a second Likud or maintain our religious Zionist values."

Earlier Wednesday, Ariel tried unsuccessfully to persuade Bennett to postpone the vote until the two parties merge.

"What Bayit Yehudi is doing does not bring unity any closer," Ariel said.

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