Court returns Ratzon to No. 24 slot; Feiglin's fate still unclear

Likud merges with Tzomet, but not with Eitam's party.

The Likud will submit its slate of Knesset candidates to the central elections committee on Sunday evening, but it was still unclear at press time Saturday night whether party activist Moshe Feiglin will be 20th or 36th on the list. The party's election committee decided three days after the December 8 primary to demote Feiglin and former rebel MKs Michael Ratzon (from 24th) and Ehud Yatom (from 29th) to much lower slots on the list, saying the number of women who were elected to the party's top 20 canceled out slots reserved for women later in the list and advanced 15 slots reserved for regional candidates. Tel Aviv District Court Deputy President Yehooda Zaft overturned that decision on Saturday night. In his ruling, he wrote that "anti-democratic" moves were made to harm Feiglin and that Ratzon and Yatom were harmed by "ricochets." However, Zaft stressed that his decision applied only to Ratzon, who was the only one of the three who had appealed. Feiglin decided not to appeal after his demotion and he said Saturday night that he had not changed his mind. "The court is trying to force me to appeal, but the ball has been returned to the court of the Likud, and the question is whether the Likud will respect the court's decision," Feiglin said. "I am sticking to my decision not to appeal and not to enter the Knesset thanks to the courts. If I did, I wouldn't have a case to attack the courts in the future." Instead, Feiglin sent a letter to Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar, who is in charge of presenting the list to the central elections committee, urging him to ensure that he would be placed in his rightful position. Ratzon responded to the verdict by proclaiming: "Justice had been restored and the democratic process dictated by the Likud members had won out." His attorney, Ilan Bombach, called the ruling "an earthquake" and expressed satisfaction that "the judges repaired the blows to democracy inflicted by the election committee." Sources close to Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had not reacted to the verdict by press time, except to downplay it, saying "there is a war going on." But a Likud official said that if Feiglin and Yatom appealed to an internal Likud court, there was a "reasonable chance" that they would be restored to their original places on the list in the wake of the judge's decision on Ratzon. Meanwhile, the Likud signed a deal Saturday night on a merger with the Tzomet Party and decided against merging with MK Effi Eitam's Ahi Party. According to the deal, Pensioners' Party MK Elhan Glazer, who joined Tzomet, will be 39th on the merged list, which will be called Likud-Tzomet. The Likud promised to ensure that Tzomet founder Rafael Eitan will be memorialized and to work to obtain benefits for soldiers who complete their service, including a free first year of university studies and subsidies to buy land in the Negev and the Galilee. In return, the Likud will receive Tzomet's NIS 12 million in state funding for the election, which will boost the party's campaign budget to NIS 40m. Glazer expressed confidence that he would remain in the Knesset thanks to the deal. "They were going to get 35 or 36 seats without us, and we would have gotten three or four," Glazer said. "We believe that if we work hard and advance Tzomet's agenda, there is a good chance that together, we will get 39 seats, and I will stay an MK." A spokesman for Ahi said legal problems had prevented a deal, namely that the NIS 12 million in funding was dependent on the party's representative entering the Knesset, and Eitam did not want to owe the money to the state. The spokesman said Eitam would still join the Likud and run for Knesset with the party in the next election.