Likud court cancels party leadership race

Netanyahu to win seventh term as party head.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/POOL)
The Likud’s highest internal court canceled the February 23 party leadership race Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representatives and opponents both told the court that holding a primary with no competition was unnecessary.
Netanyahu will officially be declared the winner by the Likud’s election committee at a symbolic meeting Thursday night at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabia hotel. This will be Netanyahu’s seventh term as leader of the party.
The election committee decided to hold the primary Monday after the party’s lawyer Avi Halevy said on Netanyahu’s behalf that its members should be given their democratic right to vote. Nevertheless, Halevy praised the decision by the court to cancel the race.
“Netanyahu brought the primary system to Israel from the US, because he believes it’s best for all the members of the party to vote for the chairman,” Halevy said. “But we have special circumstances of having just one candidate, so we said the party has members and they should be allowed to vote.”
Halevy denied reports that Netanyahu would appeal the court’s decision and prolong the saga over the one-man leadership race. He also did not confirm a report that the prime minister changed his mind about the primary when he realized that a large and perhaps unachievable quorum of voters was required to win the contest.
“If this is the court’s decision, of course we will not appeal,” he said. “After the declaration of Netanyahu as the winner, we will be ready for the general election, which no one thinks will happen soon.”
The head of the Likud central committee, Welfare and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, and the chairman of the election committee, former Haifa District Court judge Menahem Ne’eman, both welcomed the decision of the internal court.
Following Thursday’s confirmation of Netanyahu as the winner by Ne’eman’s committee, the prime minister is expected to continue the process of filling vacancies in the government, which started with Sunday’s appointment of Shas leader Arye Deri as interior minister.
At Deri’s request, Likud MK Yaron Mazuz was shifted from the post of deputy interior minister and was sworn in Wednesday as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Mazuz denied reports that he refused to be sworn in because he was seeking a different post. He said he postponed his swearing-in for a few hours to say goodbye at the Interior Ministry.
Shas MK Meshulam Nahari shifted from the Social Welfare to Interior Ministry. He said he was proud to help underprivileged children in his former job and that he was thankful for the new opportunity Deri gave him in his new one.