moshe feiglin 298.88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On December 20, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's first day on the job, he announced that he was embarking on a quest to rid the party of "criminal and negative elements."
Netanyahu's aides clarified that the "criminal elements" in question were former mobsters that MK Omri Sharon had brought into the party and that "negative elements" referred solely to one man: Likud activist Moshe Feiglin.
Two weeks later, the former mobsters are still in the Likud central committee and neither Feiglin nor any of his allies have been banished from the party.
The central committee voted on Sunday to prevent a Likud member who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least three months in jail from running for the Likud's Knesset slate and party institutions in the future, but the proposal had no immediate impact.
Likud director-general Arik Brami said the Likud spent NIS 150,000 to rent two buildings in the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, pay for security and set up a computer system to count the votes. Only 550 people, 18.2 percent of the central committee's 3,000 members, came out to vote on a sunny day in Tel Aviv. Two hours of speeches that were expected before the vote were canceled because no one volunteered to speak.
When he came to the fairgrounds to vote, Netanyahu called upon other parties to follow the Likud by removing criminals from their midst.
"When I began my job, I promised to start a process of renewal in the Likud," Netanyahu told reporters at the event. "With this vote, we are cleaning the party of lawbreakers." Former mobster Musa Alperon, who supported Netanyahu in the Likud leadership race, responded that he remained a central committee member despite the vote.
Feiglin called a press conference ahead of the vote on Sunday morning and accused Netanyahu and other Likud leaders of carrying out a "witch hunt" against him. He lashed out at Netanyahu for focusing his attention on him instead of on the threat posed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima Party.
"It is sad for me to see how the children of the Altalena generation, whose parents were boycotted by Mapai (the forerunner of Labor) treated me the way their parents were treated," Feiglin said. "I don't think my request for Jewish education is extremist, and it certainly doesn't justify the hatred and anti-Semitic demonization recently used against me."
One of the reasons for the low voter turnout was that Feiglin announced in the press conference that he was willing to drop his candidacy for the Likud's Knesset slate. Before leaving the race, Feiglin is waiting for a decision by the head of the Likud's election committee, Judge Zvi Cohen, on whether he could have run legally had he wanted to.
The proposal reviewed by the central committee allows Cohen to permit convicted felons to run if he decides that their crime lacked moral turpitude. Cohen will rule on Monday which Knesset candidates who have been imprisoned will be allowed to run.
The judge is expected to give his okay to Feiglin, who was convicted in 1997 of "seditious acts and publications and unlawful assembly" during his protests of the Oslo Accords, as well as former prisoners of Zion Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein and former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was imprisoned by the British and is likely to be placed in the ceremonial 120th slot on the Likud list.
The Likud's interim legal adviser, Uri Ben-Atiya, said that Cohen would probably issue a blanket ruling that anyone imprisoned by the former Soviet Union and the British Mandate would be allowed to run.
Feiglin, who repeatedly compared his dreams to those of the biblical Joseph in his press conference, vowed to continue running for the Likud leadership until he won. He said he decided not to run for Knesset because he only wants to be a party leader and not a regular MK.
"In Israel if you vote Left you get Left and if you vote Right, you get further Left," Feiglin said. "I am worried that if I enter the Knesset, I will end up like all the others. I only want to enter the Knesset as the head of a party that heads the nationalist camp so that I can give the people the Jewish leadership that they want."