Guards block Feiglin from congratulating Netanyahu
Reporters boycott Netanyahu victory speech
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 15, 2007 21:33
2 minute read.
(photo credit: The Jewish Leadership Movement)
Moshe Feiglin came to Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's victory party at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, but the security guards blocked him from entering the building to congratulate him.
The victory party was held in the same building that was rented by the Likud to serve as a polling station and then a press center earlier that day. Entrance to the building had been unrestricted all day until Feiglin arrived with his supporters.
Feiglin was surprised and angered by the guards who prevented him from entering. He said the incident was an affront to the 23.5 percent of the Likud members who voted in his favor.
"This fits with Netanyahu's anti-democratic bullying during the entire campaign," Feiglin told reporters in a hastily called press conference outside the building. "Netanyahu is afraid of his own party. He is fighting against his party instead of uniting the party against the Left. This is why Netanyahu brought the Likud to 19 seats and to 12 and if he continues this way, we will lose again, because of his dictatorial behavior."
Netanyahu at first explained the incident by saying that he wanted his victory party to be only for his supporters. He later called the incident a misunderstanding between his staff and the security guard and said Feiglin should have been allowed in the building.
"Everywhere around the world, candidates give victory speeches," Netanyahu told Israel Radio. "I wanted to thank my people. There will be events for the entire Likud on another day."
But Feiglin's associates said they were convinced that Netanyahu gave orders to prevent him from entering the building, because he wanted to avoid pictures of a customary handshake with the second-place finisher in the race. "It is sad to see that the man who warmly shook the hand of [former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat is unable to shake the hand of a political rival," a Feiglin associate said.
Netanyahu also angered representatives of the Hebrew press, who waited until 1:30 am in one room in the building for Netanyahu to arrive, only to be told at the last minute that the event had been moved to Likud headquarters across town and then to another room at the fairgrounds. The reporters decided to boycott the victory speech to protest the logistical inconvenience.
Sources close to Netanyahu said the reason for the move was to avoid allegations of impropriety. The first room was rented by the Likud and the second by the Netanyahu campaign. They said holding the event in a room the campaign paid for also allowed them to limit who could enter.
"It's not fair that after working all night, we had to be put through such hassles just so he could block Feiglin," said a reporter who initiated the boycott.
Netanyahu later called three political reporters to apologize for the incident.
The reporters also protested that the election results, which were compiled by computer, were not updated to the press from 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m.
"It was a storm in a teacup," Netanyahu said. "The results weren't hidden. There weren't forgeries or vote buying. The vote was run in a praiseworthy way that will be a model for other parties."