Critics: PM wants Arabs in Likud

Netanyahu, Danon duel in calls to party’s central committee.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 1, 2010 06:29
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Ariel Jerozolim

Netanyahu spreads arms 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Hundreds of Likud central committee members received phone calls on Sunday with a recorded message from “Muhammad from Kalansuwa,” urging them to vote in favor of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s initiative in the party on Thursday.

“Dear Likudnik Shalom,” the recorded message said. “This is Muhammad from Kalansuwa speaking. My family and I want to join Likud so I could have an influence on the State of Israel. The only way I can do this is if you vote in favor of delaying the election to the Likud central committee Thursday. Shukran! [Thank you in Arabic]”

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The recorded message is the initiative of Netanyahu’s fiercest critic in the Likud faction, MK Danny Danon, who is accusing the prime minister of trying to bring thousands of Arabs and leftists into the party in order to make it less right-wing.

Danon and Netanyahu will face-off Thursday when some 3,000 central committee members will be eligible to vote in 22 polling stations nationwide on Netanyahu’s proposal to delay an election for a new central committee from 2010 to 2012. The prime minister needs the support of two thirds of the voters to pass the proposal.

Netanyahu’s associates say publicly that the prime minister wants Likud to be as large as possible and privately that he doesn’t want the headaches of an internal election of party activists while he’s trying to focus his energies on preventing Iran’s nuclearization.

“Your vote in favor is important for party unity and to allow the government and the Likud to continue their momentum,” Netanyahu told central committee members in his own recorded message over the weekend.

Netanyahu’s critics say he wants the race delayed because the current Likud membership is too right-wing and would consequently elect a rightist central committee, which would vote for more hawkish MKs in the next party primary. But if the race is postponed, Netanyahu can bring leftists into the party via a membership drive that is currently taking place – a move that will carry the central committee and faction to the Left.



“The Likud has been cleaned up of the leftists that Omri Sharon brought in to the party,” Danon said. “The attempt to water down the people who are truly loyal to the principles of the Likud by bringing in members from Kadima and the Arab sector is unacceptable, and we won’t allow Bibi to get away with it. We don’t want Jawarish, Kalansawa and Taiba in the Likud.”

A Likud hawk accused Netanyahu’s ally, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, of signing up thousands of port workers, Egged bus drivers, and other unions in the sectors covered by his ministry, as Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz did when he ran for the leadership of his party while holding the portfolio. A Katz associate denied the charge.


Netanyahu’s nemesis Moshe Feiglin will miss the vote because he will be in the United States for a fundraising dinner for his Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) ideological forum.

The current central committee was elected in 2002, even though the party is supposed to elect a new committee every four years. Fuah said Netanyahu’s attempt to circumvent a Tel Aviv District Court decision requiring the race to be held no later than April 30, 2010, was undemocratic.

“Bibi and the law are two things that don’t go together,” Fuah said. “He is making a mockery of the law by bypassing the court’s decision. It’s not the right against Bibi this time. It’s Bibi against Democracy.”

Netanyahu’s political adviser Shalom Shlomo did not return phone calls Thursday.

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