(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 says it is unnecessary if there is only one candidate.
Neeman’s committee made the decision after Likud attorney- general Avi Halevy argued that it was important to prevent a legal loophole that could require another Likud primary to be held ahead of the next general election.
“This is a democratic decision to let 100,000 Likud members have their say,” Halevy said.
There will be two choices available to Likud members who vote: Netanyahu and a blank ballot.
Netanyahu’s critics in Likud said privately that holding the election was a waste of some NIS 4 million, stating that no one intends to try to force another primary ahead of the next election and that Netanyahu was acting “paranoid” by thinking such a scenario was realistic.
Likud sources said in response that an effort would be made to limit the cost of the contest by having fewer polling stations with shorter hours.
It was unclear Monday night whether the decision of the election committee would be appealed to the party’s internal court.
Former MK Michael Kleiner, the head of the internal court, said Sunday the election should not be held.
“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 oneman election just to say we did it. This is not controversial. It’s obvious. It’s A-B-C.”