Bibi delays Likud Knesset elections

Netanyahu hopes rule about criminal convictions will keep Feiglin out.

bibi 2005 budget 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bibi 2005 budget 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
New Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu delayed the Likud's Knesset elections by six days on Wednesday to allow him to take the legal steps necessary to oust right-wing activist Moshe Feiglin from the party. The Likud central committee was set to elect the party's Knesset slate on January 3. Netanyahu delayed the election to January 9, because he wanted to first hold a vote on preventing anyone with a conviction from running for Knesset with the party, a vote that required two weeks notice. "There will not be room in our party for corruption and extremist lawbreaking," Netanyahu told the Likud faction. "Our party will work to restore its image to the good old days of Menachem Begin." Feiglin served six months in jail following his 1997 conviction for seditious acts, publications and unlawful assembly during his protest of the Oslo Accords. Feiglin received unexpected backing from MKs who had been called the Likud rebels during their battle against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his disengagement plan. In just his second day as Likud leader, the rebels turned on Netanyahu, accusing him of a "witch hunt" against Feiglin. "I still support Bibi, but I don't think Feiglin is a problem," MK Michael Ratzon said. "Criminals shouldn't be in the party but people shouldn't be kicked out for ideological reasons. In a large party there is room for everyone, even people on the fringes." Ratzon said Netanyahu also made a mistake when he delayed the departure of Likud ministers from the cabinet. The move was seen by Likud MKs as an attempt by Netanyahu to find favor with Health Minister Dan Naveh and Education Minister Limor Livnat, who want to remain ministers until after the election for the Knesset slate so they can campaign in ministerial Volvos. "If we oppose Sharon, we should have left the government the moment he left the Likud," said former Likud rebel MK Ayoub Kara. "We shouldn't be a part of a corrupt government. I told Bibi that it makes us look bad." Netanyahu appointed Likud MK Michael Eitan to head the Likud's campaign against corruption. He also formed a team to draft a new Likud ideological platform led by MKs Uzi Landau, Yuval Steinitz, Gideon Sa'ar and Naveh. Vowing to turn the party to the center, Netanyahu spoke in the Likud faction about the Hebron and Wye accords that he signed with former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Netanyahu made a point of avoiding talking about the agreements during his campaign for the Likud leadership, but felt free to mention them now that he is seeking votes from the political center. "We in the Likud made peace with Egypt, supported the peace agreement with Jordan and I personally signed successful agreements with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said, comparing the accords to the "dangerous unilateral moves" taken by Sharon.