World Likud splits over elections

Bibi loyalists will not have any power in the World Zionist Organization.

steinitz speaking 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
steinitz speaking 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Seven months after the division of the Likud and three months after it suffered its worst ever electoral defeat, the party's international body, the World Likud, split in two on Sunday in a chaotic Jerusalem convention. The split means that loyalists of party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu will not have any power in the World Zionist Organization and that the party's supporters overseas who have not left to join Kadima will now have to choose between two rival Likud factions. World Likud activists on both sides of the split warned that the party's reputation had hit a nadir. Supporters of the two candidates for World Likud chairman, MK Yuval Steinitz and World Betar head Danny Danon, had hoped that Sunday's convention at the Jerusalem Regency Hotel would pass quietly, unlike the last convention in 2002 that ended in violence and the one before in 1998 that never ended at all. But Steinitz suspected something was fishy on Friday when he discovered that his supporters were told that the vote would be held on Sunday night when in fact the 125 World Likud delegates were set to vote from 10 a.m. to noon. Steinitz later found out that some Danon supporters overseas had their flights to Israel paid for them and others were staying in the hotel for free. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu asked to speak at the event to call upon delegates to vote for Steinitz. But he arrived from the United States a few minutes too late as the voting had already begun and Steinitz's supporters had already walked out of the event to protest a decision not to delay the vote and not to allow the convention to be chaired by a retired judge, as stipulated in party bylaws. When Netanyahu saw what happened, he decided to protest the vote and to form a body to replace the World Likud. Meanwhile, the vote took place and Danon won by a vote of 68 to 11. Steinitz, who boycotted the vote, questioned the result and said he did not believe that so many people voted. "They misled people on purpose," Steinitz said. "It's a shame but it will have barely any impact on the Likud itself. Bibi had the courage to fight and not give into violent people." Steinitz said that a Likud figure who is known internationally like MK Natan Sharansky or former MK Uzi Landau would be asked to head what will likely be called the New International Likud. Danon said that he would run the World Likud properly and that he did not believe the split would end up happening. He accused Steinitz of boycotting the vote because "he was afraid to lose." Retired judge Uri Shtruzman, who was supposed to chair the convention, said the entire episode was caused by a misunderstanding. He said he tried to negotiate with the two sides to start the event over but gave up when he saw that Netanyahu had decided to form a new international body. He said the matter would likely be decided in the courts. "I am sorry everything happened the way it did," Shtruzman said. "It is painful and it doesn't add to the Likud's reputation."