Exclusive: Immigrant candidates petition against new Likud primaries rule

Netanyahu’s proposal for primary structure to go to a central committee vote next week; Kara, 10 current MKs likely to be left out.

A sign on a Jerusalem bus proclaims, ‘The Likud is strength.’ (photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
A sign on a Jerusalem bus proclaims, ‘The Likud is strength.’
(photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
Candidates for the immigrant slot on the Likud list for the next Knesset petitioned the party’s internal court on Tuesday against an expected rule change in the upcoming primaries, which they say is unfair.
In past primaries, incumbent MKs had to run for national spots, whereas special spots, for different districts, immigrants, or candidates under 35 were meant for new candidates.
However, a change approved by the Likud Constitution Committee on Tuesday would allow lawmakers who served only one term to compete for the immigrant and under-35 spots, which are the 28th and 32nd places on the list, respectively. The new rule must be approved by the Likud central committee in a vote next week in order to be final.
MKs Avraham Neguise, who was born in Ethiopia, and Sharren Haskel, who hails from Canada, are expected to run for the immigrant slot if the rule change is approved, and party sources say the change was made following pressure from Neguise’s powerful allies, including coalition chairman David Amsalem.
However, several immigrant Likudniks who planned to run for the spot – Binyamin Lachkar, originally of France, David Ababa, of Ethiopian origin, and Michael Lubovikov, who immigrated from the former Soviet Union – submitted a petition to the Likud’s court against the change.
“A number of candidates...planned to run when the rules of the game were known to all,” the petition stated. “They invested time and money in running.”
The new rules “are a violation of the game’s rules a moment before the game. The ability of incumbent MKs to run cannot be compared to that of new candidates. MKs are known to the general public, enjoyed media exposure, and invested all their time outside the Knesset in meetings with central activists and Likud members,” the candidates explained.
“This is an outrage,” Lachkar told The Jerusalem Post, saying he may not run if the new rule is approved.
As such, they said that the “principle of equality has been trampled” and called for MKs to run in the national spots.
Another potential candidate, David Leviev, expressed disappointment at the new rule, a sentiment he said was shared by thousands of immigrants in the Likud.
“Are immigrants worse than Druze and the non-Jewish sector, in which only new, non-MKs can run?” Leviev asked. “It’s absurd that an Arab Muslim woman can run and a Jew who left the Diaspora cannot run.”
The Likud Constitution Committee approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggested list on Tuesday, including allowing him to appoint a candidate to the 21st slot. National candidates are in the first 18 spots, and a mix of districts and national spots after that. The spots for a female candidate are 25, 35 and 39, a new non-Jewish candidate in the 30th spot, and a new haredi candidate at 43rd. The Likud is polling at about 28-30 seats in most surveys in recent weeks.
Ten out of the current 30 Likud MKs are not expected to return to the next Knesset.
Unlike in past primaries, the non-Jewish spot must go to a new candidate, which means that Communications Minister Ayoub Kara will not get his usual automatic place on the list, and he will have to compete with the other serving MKs for a regular spot.