PM backs down from Likud constitution-change vote

Netanyahu decides to wait for appeal against court ruling that left open possibility that it could invalidate results.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 3, 2010 05:06
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attends the week

netanyahu cabinet good 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has backed down for the time being from his proposal to change the Likud constitution.

The central committee had been set to convene at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Wednesday night to debate Netanyahu’s plan to delay the election of a new committee by two years, and central committee members were then due to vote at polling stations Thursday.

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But the prime minister said Tuesday night that he had decided to wait for an appeal to the Supreme Court of a Tel Aviv District Court ruling that ordered the Likud to set a date for the central committee election in Wednesday’s meeting, and that had left open the possibility that it could invalidate the results if Netanyahu won Thursday’s vote.

“Even if you decide to declare yourselves central committee members for life and that it will also carry on to your children, it doesn’t mean it counts,” Judge Yehuda Zeft had said.

The prime minister had slammed opponents of his proposal in a meeting with 120 of his loyalists in the party’s central committee at the Knesset on Tuesday.

“Whoever opposes my proposal does so for his own foreign interests and not for the good of the party,” Netanyahu told the Likud activists. “Most Likud members understand that this is the right decision and that it’s important to open the ranks of the Likud to the many citizens who want to join. We must struggle to encourage people to vote and not be indifferent, because most members support our proposal.”

At least a third of the Likud faction has come out against Netanyahu’s proposal. They angered the prime minister when they refused to sign a letter to central committee members endorsing the proposal.



Likud MK Danny Danon, who has led the effort against the prime minister’s proposal, convened some 40 activists at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on Tuesday night to plan strategy. The activists divided up the names of the 3,200 central committee members in an effort to call all of them ahead of the vote.

“It is the prime minister who is acting out of political reasons,” Danon said. “Those of us who oppose the proposal are acting to protect the pure ideology of the Likud.”

Ma’aleh Adumim Likud activist Gideon Ariel, who attended Danon’s meeting, said the opponents of the prime minister’s proposal were not trying to undermine him.

“It’s a democratic issue, not a personal one,” Ariel said. “Unfortunately Netanyahu seems to be trying to avoid democracy. When the central committee is supposed to be elected every four years, and it’s been eight years and he wants to change the constitution to avoid an election for another two years, we have to stand guard to make sure the democracy of the party remains strong.”

Likud director-general Gadi Arieli said there were technical reasons for delaying the convention until after a proper voter registration drive could take place. He said there were 30,000-40,000 people who wanted to join the party, and it was important to be pluralist and inclusive.

He also noted that adding that many new dues-paying members could give the party an important financial boost.

Meanwhile, Arieli announced a March 18 date for another Likud central committee meeting, which will debate Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze. Arieli was forced to convene the committee by Danon, who gathered the minimum number of signatures from central committee members that would require the committee to convene.

The meeting will take place immediately before the prime minister leaves for Washington. An anti-Netanyahu show by the hawks in the central committee could serve Netanyahu’s interests, because it could show the leadership in Washington that he is under political pressure

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