Mystery candidate enters Habayit Hayehudi race

According to party’s final lists for the primary, a man named Yehuda Cohen from J'lem is also in the running to head the national-religious party.

 Daniel Herschkowitz quits Habayit Hayehudi race 370 (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Daniel Herschkowitz quits Habayit Hayehudi race 370
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
A new, mysterious candidate is running in the Habayit Hayehudi leadership race, baffling contenders MK Zevulun Orlev and Naftali Bennett.
According to the party’s final lists for the primary, a man named Yehuda Cohen from Jerusalem is also in the running to head the national-religious party.
Habayit Hayehudi’s election committee received several phone calls from Cohen, a schoolteacher, in recent weeks.
“I didn’t give him much thought, because it didn’t seem like he was serious,” a party source said, pointing out that Cohen has not held any events or advertised his candidacy.
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The source said she does not think Cohen is a fake candidate sent by Orlev or Bennett so they can have additional observers in the voting booth, because he started calling the committee to ask questions long before former candidate Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz dropped out of the leadership race.
Bennett’s camp said they have no idea who Cohen is, and they hope that Orlev was as surprised as Bennett.
Orlev’s camp would not comment, except to say the candidate does not know who Cohen is.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, Orlev’s lawyer, Ilan Baumbach, petitioned Habayit Hayehudi’s internal court in the name of four party members, asking to postpone the leadership vote’s November 6 date.
Baumbach said the primary should be postponed to allow the election committee to review the party’s 53,876 member list again and make sure everyone’s phone number, ID number and other details are accurate.
A party activist backed Baumbach’s request, saying that hundreds of membership forms were disqualified because of minor mistakes in credit card numbers, checks bouncing or illegible handwriting.
In addition, the activist pointed out, many forms from immigrants were disqualified, because they were only available in Hebrew and some of the new members did not understand the instructions.
According to the activist, far more of Orlev’s forms were disqualified than Bennett’s, and as such, the former would benefit much more if the primary were postponed. One possible reason for this discrepancy is that Bennett supporters had the option of registering on his website, and people were automatically informed if they filled out the form incorrectly.
A source on the election committee said they warned candidates not to hand in election forms at the last minute, but that 20,000 were submitted at 10 on the final night of the membership drive. As such, the committee did not have time to contact everyone whose form was disqualified.
The election committee source would not confirm the number of disqualified forms.
Orlev’s spokesman said the candidate had nothing to do with the petition, but supports its aims, while Bennett’s spokesman said he opposes any change in the primary date.
Meanwhile, the Habayit Hayehudi election committee legal adviser, Aviad Hacohen, slammed Baumbach’s request in its response to the party’s court, saying that he is clearly representing Orlev’s interests and not just a desire to have a fair primary.
Hacohen pointed out that only Bennett and former candidate Herschkowitz were listed as respondents in the petition, and says the petitioners “threw mud and accusations at the members of the election committee who work day and night with integrity and good faith so the primary is successful.”
In addition, Hacohen wrote that the petitioners did not prove that hundreds of forms were disqualified.
“This is one of many attempts to try to disrupt the primary, which will take place in less than two weeks, and change the rules at the last minute,” he wrote. “All members of the party, including the petitioners, should try to save the process and not sabotage it by bringing up baseless claims.”
The party’s court decided that anyone who paid to join Habayit Hayehudi but did not see his or her name on the membership list has until October 29 at 6 p.m. to present proof of payment and be put on the list.