Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, flanked by Likud MKs Yuval Steinitz and Ze’ev Elkin, speaks at the Likud faction meeting December 8.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered defeat in the Likud’s internal court Monday when it disqualified the results of last week’s Likud central committee vote on when and how to elect the party’s leader and Knesset candidates.
The court said Netanyahu lacked the votes in the central committee to initiate the secret ballot vote that took place Wednesday. It overturned Netanyahu’s plan to hold elections for faction head and for the party’s Knesset list on the same day, December 31. It also shot down the vote to allow Netanyahu to reserve the 11th and 23rd spots on the Likud list for his personal choices.
Among the names Netanyahu was considering for those slots were former IDF deputy chiefs of staff Yoav Gallant and Uzi Dayan, renowned economist Shlomo Maoz, and revered national icon and former basketball star Tal Brody.
Likud lawyer Avi Halevy responded that holding elections for Likud leader and the rest of the party’s Knesset slate would waste NIS 5 million and lower voter turnout.
He said it was wrong to disqualify a vote in which two thirds of the central committee members who came to polling stations endorsed Netanyahu’s proposal.
“Unlike other parties, whose leader decides their entire list of candidates,the decision of the central committee to give its chairman the right to pick two candidates was reasonable and should not have been overturned,” Halevy said.
The decision came after MK Moshe Feiglin, who is challenging Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, appealed the results of last week’s Likud central committee vote. Central committee chairman Danny Danon said that he accepted the court’s decision.
“In accordance with the decision, as of today, elections for the head of the Likud and for choosing the party Knesset list will be split up, in opposition to Netanyahu’s stance. The elections for party head will take place as planned on December 31.
The Likud’s constitution committee will now have to set a new date for primaries.”
Netanyahu’s campaign responded: “This is a perplexing decision given that a striking majority of Likud central committee members voted to combine the elections and advance the primaries to save the party millions of shekels and to prepare for general elections as soon as possible.”
The prime minister’s campaign added that a wider panel of judges would launch a renewed discussion of the decision on Tuesday.
“There is no doubt that for the good of the party, including saving money and advancing in the general election, necessitates a change to today’s decision.”
Central committee member Eli Cornfeld said the court made a great decision.
“Separating the elections for Likud leader and the MKs is good for everyone,” he said. “This is a great day for Israel and a great day for Likud.”