PM to convene Likud Central Committee

Netanyahu plans to ride

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene the Likud Central Committee next month in an effort to take advantage of his current popularity following meetings in the United States considered successful, sources close to Netanyahu revealed on Tuesday. Netanyahu had been avoiding convening the hawkish committee, which could have embarrassed him ahead of his meetings the past few months with US President Barack Obama. Despite various efforts by Netanyahu's political opponents to convene the committee against the prime minister's will, it has not met since December 2 - before the Likud selected its Knesset list. But now that the US meetings are behind him, Netanyahu wants to convene the committee soon to take advantage of his current popularity. A group of Likud activists loyal to Netanyahu will meet next month to officially request that Netanyahu convene the committee, and the prime minister will formally grant their request. "Bibi strengthened himself and the nation with his speech at the UN," said Likud Petah Tikva branch head Uri Faraj, a strong Netanyahu supporter. "The central committee will meet regardless of whether Bibi looks strong or weak. Bibi is always strong in the central committee. It has to meet because the time has come, and legally, it can't be dragged on much longer." A Likud source noted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas convened his Fatah conference when he felt he was strong politically, and it gave him a significant political boost. Likud MK Danny Danon, a critic of Netanyahu's diplomatic policies, has drafted the 1,000 signatures of central committee members required to convene the committee against Netanyahu's will, to discuss the party's policies opposing the creation of a Palestinian state. But Danon was waiting for Netanyahu's next moves on the diplomatic front before submitting the signatures to the central committee chairman, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon. "If Bibi decides to convene the central committee, I would welcome it," Danon said. "An ideological discussion in the party is long overdue." The Likud's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) ideological forum, led by Moshe Feiglin, opposed efforts by some Likud hawks to convene the committee after Netanyahu expressed support for a Palestinian state at Bar-Ilan University in June. Feiglin said at the time that he "wanted to wait until the public realized how wrong Netanyahu was, after Obama intensified pressure on Israel and showed that Netanyahu was incorrect to think that his speech could alleviate American pressure." Now that pressure from the Obama administration has arguably decreased, Manhigut Yehudit is in favor of convening the central committee. "If the meeting is merely intended to strengthen Bibi, we are not interested, but if there will be a real ideological forum on the Palestinian state issue, we will welcome it," said Manhigut Yehudit director-general Michael Fuah.