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Will the Likud banish from its ranks former Prisoners of Zion Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein and former Knesset speaker Dov Shilansky?
Likud activist Moshe Feiglin has posed this question to the Likud central committee members who will be deciding on Sunday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds whether to approve a proposal designed by new Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to distance Feiglin from the party.
"A Likud member who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least three months in jail cannot run for the Likud's Knesset slate or any Likud institutions," the proposal states, without differentiating between "crimes" committed in Israel or abroad.
The proposal makes an exception for people who committed crimes deemed to not involve "moral turpitude." But it forces them to face a hearing with the head of the Likud's election committee, former Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tzvi Cohen, who will be in charge of deciding what crimes are morally acceptable.
Sharansky and Edelstein, who are both running for reelection to the Knesset, served jail time in Russian prisons because of their Zionism. Shilansky, who is usually given a ceremonial slot at the end of the Likud list, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for protesting the government's decision to accept Holocaust reparations from Germany in the 1950s.
Feiglin was convicted in 1997 of "seditious acts and publications and unlawful assembly" during his protests against the Oslo Accords. From Feiglin's standpoint, his protests against peace agreements that led to the deaths of more than a thousand Israelis were just as legitimate in hindsight as Sharansky's and Edelstein's protests against the former Soviet Union.
"If this proposal passes, the Likud will look ridiculous," Feiglin's No. 2 man, Michael Foah, said. "It is obvious that Shilansky, Sharansky, Edelstein and Feiglin have nothing to be ashamed of. These ideological people conducted brave struggles for which they paid a heavy price and now they are being disqualified from running with the party owing to a mistake in the wording of a proposal."
There are also veteran Likudniks who the judge will have to decide whether to banish from the Likud central committee if the proposal passes, because they served jail time during the British Mandate of Palestine for their fight for a Jewish state.
One of them is Eli Sheetrit, 79, who served in a British prison camp in Latrun from June 1945 to May 1948. Sheetrit, who heads the Tagar forum of Irgun Zva'i Leumi fighters in the central committee, intends to vote for the proposal because he wants to see "criminals that Omri Sharon brought into the party" expelled. He said he would have no problem facing a hearing with Judge Cohen.
"My imprisonment was a source of pride for everyone who fought in the underground for the formation of the state," Sheetrit said. "It was not a crime of shame but a crime of pride and I know the judge will agree. I am not a criminal and Feiglin isn't a criminal but there are too many criminals in the party."
Edelstein joked in a meeting with Sheetrit's group on Wednesday that "Natan Sharansky and I are nervous, but I see we are not alone among the Likudniks who have done jail time."
Netanyahu's spokesman Ophir Akunis responded that "the wording of the proposal is not going to change and the Likud chairman will work to ensure that the proposal passes."
Sources close to Sharansky said he was sure the mechanism approved on Sunday would allow the party to determine who was worthy of remaining while washing out criminal elements.
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