World Likud splits after Netanyahu takeover fails

Both sides claim right to negotiate who will head Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod, KKL-JNF

Benjamin Netanyahu at the unity government's meeting (photo credit: POOL)
Benjamin Netanyahu at the unity government's meeting
(photo credit: POOL)
The World Likud’s representatives in next month’s World Zionist Congress split in two factions in recent days, following an unsuccessful attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take over the last bastion inside the party that he does not control.
In a convention of the World Likud assembly that took place online last week, incumbent World Likud chairman Yaakov Hagoel was easily reelected, in what was seen as a political defeat for the prime minister inside the Likud.
But Netanyahu’s candidate, coalition chairman Miki Zohar, refused to run in the race, which Hagoel called on Saturday night for Tuesday afternoon, calling the hastily called vote political thievery. Instead, Zohar took the World Likud delegates from Israel and France, who are loyal to him, and split off from Hagoel’s faction ahead of the congress.
In a letter signed by Zohar and three other top officials in World Likud, they said they control a majority of the Likud’s delegates to the congress, and therefore they have the right to negotiate on the Likud’s behalf to build a coalition in the World Zionist Organization and divide up top posts like the leadership of the Jewish Agency, United Israel Appeal and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
Hagoel responded sharply in a letter that Zohar must accept the results of the election in the World Likud convention, which gave him the sole right to represent the World Likud at the congress.
“Stand down from your words,” Hagoel said. “Your attempt to split the World Likud may lead to steps to expel you from the movement in the Likud’s internal court.”
Zohar refused, in a letter back to Hagoel, saying that it was Hagoel who had split the faction by preventing Zohar from running against him, and that the results were not legitimate, because less than half the World Likud delegates had participated in the vote.
“The basic rights in a democracy are the rights to elect and to get elected,” Zohar wrote. “Preventing me from running is a gross violation of democracy.”
Hagoel responded that Zohar must “internalize that the Likud is a democratic party, and the rules of the game must be respected.”
Sources in the World Likud who are not loyal to either side said both sides behaved improperly. The sources said compromise efforts were under way, and if they failed, the dispute would have to be settled in court ahead of when the World Zionist Congress convenes virtually in October.
Zev Stub contributed to this report.