Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during an appearance at a Likud faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a defeat on Sunday in an internal party court, which ruled that Likud central committee members cannot vote on his proposal to advance the Likud leadership primary until they have had a chance to debate the matter.
Netanyahu intended to have the central committee members vote on his proposal Tuesday in secret ballot voting stations where the members are voting for a new committee chairman.
Likud lawyer Avi Halevy argued on his behalf that a discussion at an actual committee meeting was not necessary because debating had been taking place on social media.
The head of the court, former MK Michael Kleiner, and three other judges out of five ruled in favor of a petition by party activist Aviad Visoli to require the central committee to hold a debate and vote on whether Tuesday’s vote on the primary date should be canceled. The judges declined Visoli’s petition asking the court to cancel Tuesday’s vote.
“We decided that as long as the matter would be properly debated, there was no reason to interfere,” Kleiner said.
The central committee will meet in an emergency session in Tel Aviv on Monday. There will be at least one speaker for and against Netanyahu’s proposal to vote Tuesday on holding the primary on February 23. The central committee members will then vote on Visoli’s proposal to cancel Tuesday’s vote.
Ahead of the court hearing, Netanya Likud branch head Dudu Maimon and other activists who were seeking to cancel the vote dropped their petition, because Netanyahu promised that any agreement he reaches with another party to run together with the Likud in the next general election will require a majority vote in the central committee. Such a vote is already required by the Likud constitution, but the activists said they glad that Netanyahu committed to not try to change the requirement.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who heads the Likud’s governing secretariat, negotiated with Netanyahu and obtained his commitment. In return, Katz decided to change his position and endorse Netanyahu’s proposal to advance the primary date.
It was important to Katz and other senior politicians in the Likud that Netanyahu not surprise them by reaching a deal with another party to run together in the next election, because they would be moved down the candidates list. But the heads of any parties that might unite with the Likud have already promised their voters that they will not do so, so there was little chance of that happening anyway.
“This agreement will unify and strengthen the Likud, while maintaining its character and its democracy,” Katz said.