Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during an appearance at a Likud faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party has blocked the process of joining the party via the Internet, following the fear that thousands of members of “the New Likudniks” would try to “take control of the party.”
A Likud spokesman said the party “received indications of improper use of the Likud’s registration site, and therefore it was decided to temporarily stop Internet registration.” He stressed that registration for the party using paper forms continues without disruption.
Ma’ariv political correspondent Arik Bender first reported that the freeze was aimed at stopping the “New Likudniks,” a centrist group that has joined the party in recent years in an effort to moderate its policies.
There were concerns in the party that thousands of centrists and leftists would join the party to impact its future amid questions of whether criminal probes will end the career of Netanyahu.
The New Likudniks have modeled their efforts after a strategy used by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who brought in thousands of rightists who helped him get elected.
Ma’ariv reported Friday that the Likud would take action against the New Likudniks, who claim to have registered some 12,000 members to the party. The party’s legal advisers are examining what action can be taken, while individual Likud members have petitioned internal Likud courts, seeking to expel members affiliated with the group, as well as Likud activists who repeatedly spoke out against Netanyahu in the media.
The New Likudniks boycotted last Wednesday’s speech by Netanyahu to Likud members at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Likud MK Nava Boker, who sat next to Sara Netanyahu at the event, said she supported expelling the New Likudniks who did not belong in the party.
“The new Likudniks are a nasty trick of the Left, Boker told Ma’ariv. “They want to have influence from inside and topple the Right. They don’t vote for the party. They vote for Meretz and Labor and they must be removed from Likud.”
The New Likudniks rejected charges that they are a fifth column and said they have no intention of toppling the Right. The group said it was wrong to stop the registration drive and called upon the party to enable the masses to join the Likud.
“We have come to restore the Likud’s values to their proper place and that includes clean governance and shunning corruption,” a group spokesman said. “These values have guided the Likud since its glory days and should continue guiding the party.”