Likud decides to let celebs run

Eitam's fate to be decided next week.

The Likud's governing secretariat decided unanimously Thursday to allow 23 well-known public figures to run for a slot on the party's Knesset list in Monday's primary. The secretariat did this by waiving the 16-month minimum party membership required to run. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had urged secretariat members to approve every candidate, from former IDF deputy chief of General Staff Uzi Dayan on the Left to former Herut MK Michael Kleiner and current National Religious Party MK Eli Gabai on the Right. One name not on the list of new Likud members was MK Effi Eitam, who decided instead to try joining the Likud via a merger with his Ahi party. Likud central committee members will vote Monday on whether to merge with Ahi, Tzomet or an Ethiopian party led by Falash Mura activist Avraham Nagosa. Netanyahu is concerned that allowing the hawkish Eitam to join the Likud could harm the party's image. But if a merger took place, the Likud would be allowed to raise its budget for the February 10 general election from the current NIS 29 million allowed by law to NIS 41m.