Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu votes in Likud central committee elections.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to advance the next Likud leadership race hit a snag Wednesday when an internal Likud court suggested that a vote of the party central committee set for Tuesday on Netanyahu’s proposal could be canceled.
The court criticized Netanyahu for not convening the central committee for deliberations on whether to advance the primary. It said a wider court would convene Sunday to decide the fate of the vote.
A group of right-wing activists in the party led by attorney Aviad Visoli petitioned the court, asking for a temporary injunction to prevent the primary.
The court did not grant the request.
Visoli proclaimed victory, saying it was unprecedented for the Likud court to suggest that a decision by the party leader could be canceled. He interpreted what the court said as ruling in his favor and what will happen Sunday as an appeal by Netanyahu after losing Wednesday.
“This is not the first and not the last time that Netanyahu has tried to bypass Likud’s constitution,” Visoli said. “He tries to finagle things to suit his needs. We in the ideological wing of the Likud won’t let him get away with it.”
But Likud legal adviser Avi Halevy said Visoli lost in court Wednesday and that it was he who was appealing to a wider court.
“The court rejected the appeals for a temporary injunction preventing the vote on the prime minister’s decision to vote Tuesday on setting a date for the primary for the chairmanship,” Halevy said.
The head of the Likud court, former MK Michael Kleiner, responded that the court did not rule in favor of either side and is not leaning to either side, saying the decision would be made by the wider court on Sunday.
Responding to the court’s complaint about Netanyahu not convening the central committee ahead of the vote, Halevy confirmed that the party’s bylaws require deliberations among committee members ahead of the vote.
But he said such deliberations have been taking place in the media and in online chat rooms of party activists, and there was no need to physically convene the central committee members.
The matter could end up having to be decided in an external court.
Netanyahu told his faction Monday that he decided to initiate the leadership race because completing the internal processes of electing a chairman and a new head of the central committee would project stability and strength in the coalition under the Likud’s leadership.
The prime minister sent a letter to central committee members this week urging them to support his proposal because other parties already know who will lead them in the next general election.
“It is important that we be ready for any eventuality,” Netanyahu wrote them. “We are one of the only parties that elects its leader. We should not busy ourselves with internal struggles. We should strengthen the Likud.”
Netanyahu’s associates have said he would wait until after the vote to appoint a replacement for departing interior minister Silvan Shalom.
By press time, Shalom had not handed in his resignation letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. He announced Sunday that he was quitting politics to fight charges of sexual misconduct, but he appeared to be reluctant to enter the Knesset and face the press.
A source close to Edelstein said media outlets had sent cameras to camp out all day outside the speaker’s office to catch Shalom.
By law, Shalom also could decide to give Edelstein the resignation letter outside the building, but Edelstein could not leave until late Wednesday due to a marathon Knesset session.
Shalom is expected to be replaced as interior minister by Shas leader Arye Deri. His replacement in the cabinet will be chosen from among MKs Tzachi Hanegbi, Bennie Begin, and Ayoub Kara.
Hanegbi will compete for the post of Likud central committee chairman Tuesday against Welfare Minister Haim Katz and MK David Amsalem.
Amsalem held a rally Tuesday night in Tiberias, in which he said he felt an atmosphere of victory.