Netanyahu speaks at Likud faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Likud’s high court postponed a decision Sunday on whether to institute de facto term limits for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as party leader.
The proposal, which is backed by Likud MK and Netanyahu critic David Amsalem, would require a special majority of up to 60 percent in a party primary for an incumbent seeking at a third or later term as party leader. If such a proposal passed, the entrance of multiple candidates into a Likud leadership race could end Netanyahu’s political career.
The head of the Likud’s high court, former MK Michael Kleiner, ruled that any proposed change to the party’s constitution on which there is any disagreement should be postponed until after the Likud elects a central committee chairman to replace Danny Danon, who became ambassador to the United Nations.
Kleiner ruled that Netanyahu must set a date for electing a central committee chairman by the end of the month and announce the date 30 days before the vote will be held.
He said the deadline to hold the race must be December 31.
According to the Likud’s bylaws, the deadline for passing changes to the party’s constitution by majority rule is this coming Saturday, November 7, exactly 18 months after the current Likud central committee was elected. After that, constitutional changes require a two-thirds majority that is almost insurmountable, except on matters of complete consensus.
Amsalem argued that three more months should be given to pass proposals by majority rule, because over the past 18 months there have been many reasons not to convene the central committee, including Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, the Likud primary, the general election, the appointment of Danon and the current wave of Arab violence.
Netanyahu’s representatives argued that once the 18 months are up, the deadline cannot be extended. Kleiner ruled that after a central committee chairman is elected, his court would convene again and try to find compromises on controversial proposals such as Amsalem’s.
“We decided not to decide yet,” Kleiner said. “We try as a court to ensure that there won’t be winners and losers.”
Amsalem’s associates said what mattered about the court’s decision was that the race for central committee head would be expedited.
Amsalem intends to run for the post against Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi and other candidates.
Likud activists initially proposed the 60 percent requirement immediately after former minister Gideon Sa’ar’s September 2014 announcement that he intends to take a break from politics. Sa’ar’s departure caused Netanyahu’s critics to take action that could oust him as party leader.
Netanyahu is in his fifth term as chairman of the party.
The Likud has had only four leaders and has a history of never toppling them.
“The proposal is intended to emphasize that we are a democratic party that has a real competition for party chairman,” said the proposal’s co-sponsor Shevach Stern, chairman of the Likud’s Binyamin region branch. “An incumbent prime minister sits high on the horse and enjoys an unfair advantage over his competition. I think he should even be allowed to run 10 times, but the competition has to be fair."