The High Court of Justice turned down a petition from National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Wednesday, effectively closing the last loophole that could have led to the postponement of the November 9 Labor leadership race.
Ben-Eliezer asked the Court to force Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel to allow 9,600 disqualified Labor members to appeal their disqualifications without limitations. Had the court ruled in Ben-Eliezer's favor, a long legal battle would have likely begun, which could have resulted in a second delay in the primary.
"I cannot hide that I feel uncomfortable with the way that [Ben-Eliezer] filed a useless petition disguised as an attempt to help the disqualified members, and with his attempt to bypass the decisions of Labor's legal institutions," Justice Edmond Levy wrote.
Levy ordered Ben-Eliezer to pay the party NIS 10,000, in addition to the NIS 31,500 that a Tel Aviv District Court judge ordered him to pay on Sunday for court expenses.
Ben-Eliezer called the ruling unfortunate and said that he would continue fighting for the rights of the disqualified members, who have until Thursday to appeal under the limitations proposed by an internal Labor court. The final number of Labor members eligible to vote in the race will be announced on November 1 after the appeals have been heard by the internal court.
Meanwhile, the Labor candidates were back on the campaign trail on Wednesday. In a meeting with Labor activists in Holon, Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz protested a decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and interim finance minister Ehud Olmert to delay the Knesset's vote on the 2006 state budget until after the Labor race. Peretz said the move was intended to help incumbent Labor chairman Shimon Peres avoid a struggle over the budget with him.
"I see it as grave that Sharon and Olmert are interfering in the Labor race in an effort to save Peres," Peretz said. "This interference creates a danger that Peres will owe his election to Sharon and Olmert and he will therefore have to back their policies."
The fourth candidate for the Labor leadership, Science Minister Matan Vilna'i, will try to attract attention to his campaign on Thursday by visiting a Tel Aviv night club. Vilna'i's spokesman said the visit was intended to send a message that the 61-year-old former general could bring more young people to the party than Peres, 82, who was recently featured on MTV.