Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to fire Transportation and Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz Wednesday after the Likud secretariat that Katz chairs decided a day earlier to take away significant powers from the post of party chairman held by Netanyahu.
The two held a lengthy and stormy meeting Wednesday after the message that at least one of Katz’s portfolios could be removed was delivered by Knesset members who spoke to the prime minister. After Netanyahu scolded Katz, he agreed to reconvene the secretariat to vote to suspend the decision.
The proposal takes away Netanyahu’s powers to allocate party funds, appoint party officials and decide the terms of internal party posts. The secretariat members voted to give those powers to themselves instead.
Netanyahu and Katz decided Wednesday 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.
“Everyone wants there to be more transparency in the party and the question is how to bring it about,” Bitan said. “Big changes must only be made by consensus.”
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, who joined Israel Katz and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin in voting for the proposal, insisted Wednesday that it was not intended to topple or harm the prime minister. Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi was the only minister who voted against the proposal.
“The secretariat will now be stronger and more independent,” a source close to Israel Katz said, singling out past allocations by the prime minister for his adviser, Nir Hefetz.
Activists loyal to Netanyahu accused Katz of a “putsch,” taking the chairmanship of the party away from the prime minister.
“Israel Katz will run the party without being elected, while the prime minister will remain Likud leader without real control over the party,” lamented Netanyahu loyalist Lior Harari.
The Likud’s internal court denied a request by the party’s legal adviser, Netanyahu loyalist Avi Halevy, to prevent Tuesday’s vote.
The secretariat also voted to limit the power of Halevy by reappointing Ilan Bombach as the secretariat’s legal adviser, despite a ruling by the internal party court that Bombach’s appointment went against party by-laws.
“The court canceled your decision to appoint a permanent legal adviser to the secretariat because it does not want every institution in the party to have its own legal adviser,” Halevy pleaded with secretariat members ahead of the vote.
“My ruling is that appointing a legal adviser is illegal and harms the order in the party. You should not vote for a legal adviser for the secretariat, not beside me, to my right or left or behind my back.”
But secretariat member Zev Ben Yosef shot back at Halevy that he has not represented the party or its institutions in his eight years on the job, and revealed that during that time the party has paid Halevy NIS 10 million.
The vote against Halevy passed unanimously.