Netanyahu speaks at Likud faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Likud’s election committee decided on Monday that there would be a February 23 Likud leadership primary even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only one to submit his candidacy by the Sunday noon deadline.
The committee, led by former Haifa District Court judge Menachem Neeman, voted unanimously to hold an election even though the party's constitution said that if there is only one candidate it is unnecessary.
Former MK Michael Kleiner, who heads the party’s internal court, said that when only one candidate submits his candidacy, it means he is automatically the victor.
He said it is legitimate that after Netanyahu led the Likud to 30 mandates no one wants to run against him.
“Netanyahu will lead the Likud until after the next general election,” Kleiner said. “Anyone could have run. No one needed to be forced to run against him, and there is no need to waste millions of taxpayer money to have a one-man election just to say we did it. This is not controversial. It’s obvious. It’s A-B-C.”
The new head of the Likud central committee, Social Welfare Minister Haim Katz, and the head of the party’s governing secretariat, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, also oppose holding an election with only Netanyahu, which could cost the party NIS 4-5 million.
But sources close to the prime minister say he is still concerned that if such an election is not held, he could face a challenge ahead of the next general election. A potential candidate might say that a leadership primary must be held to elect the party’s candidate for prime minister.
It is possible that Netanyahu could ask the Likud central committee to hold a symbolic vote approving him as the leader of the party. But legal authorities in the party said there is no need for such a move.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) decided not to challenge Netanyahu, after considering running to make a statement.
Beersheba physicist Vladimir Herzberg decided to challenge Netanyahu, but refused to gather the 500 signatures from supporters in the party that are required to run.
Former minister Silvan Shalom’s wife, Judy Nir-Mozes Shalom, joked on Twitter that she was tempted to run against Netanyahu but that she was afraid that she might win by mistake.
The Zionist Union, which has not decided when its own primary will be held, mocked the Likud for lacking democracy.
“Netanyahu wants Israel as a whole to be like the Likud with no one running against him, but he can forget about it,” the Zionist Union said in a statement. “We will compete against him and present a different path.”