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Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's attempt to change the party's system for electing MKs passed its first test on Wednesday when the Likud law committee decided nearly unanimously to approve the measure.
The proposal calls for allowing the entire Likud membership to select the national slots on the Likud list and electing slots reserved for regional districts among the members in that district. The central committee is expected to meet next week to determine the proposal's fate.
Sixteen law committee members voted in favor, none opposed and one abstained. One of the votes in favor came from MK Yisrael Katz, who caused a storm Tuesday by boycotting Netanyahu's press conference with top Likud MKs in which he introduced the proposal.
"I wouldn't initiate such a proposal myself but if our candidate for prime minister wants it, I won't stand in his way," Katz told the committee following a meeting with Netanyahu.
Katz said that he had not been invited to the press conference and that the significance of his absence was exaggerated by the Hebrew press. In private conversations, Katz expressed doubt that the proposal would help the Likud rise in the polls.
Netanyahu decided on the move after a poll predicted that it would bring the Likud six more mandates. Netanyahu already started lowering expectations at the law committee meeting, saying he would be happy if it brought the Likud an additional seat or two.
One mandate is the only boost he received in a Dialogue poll broadcast on Channel 10 on Wednesday night. The Likud rose from 13 seats last week to 14, just three more than the 11 predicted for the joint National Union-National Religious Party list.
Kadima lost only one seat in the poll, from 40 to 39 seats, despite the scandals this week involving Kadima chairman Ehud Olmert and Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi and last week's sentencing of former MK Omri Sharon. Labor held steady with 19 seats according to the poll.
Olmert and Netanyahu will meet on Thursday at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor in Jerusalem to try to settle their differences after they sparred at Wednesday's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting.
Netanyahu met on Wednesday with his Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, but reportedly did not succeed in settling their differences. Shalom's associates said he was angry that Netanyahu did not tell him of the proposal in advance and that he found about it in the press.
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