So will the rumors of cancelling primaries become a reality? In the past, there were rumors that the Prime Minister wanted to introduce a measure creating reserved spots on the list for people chosen by him, as party chairman. One report said the plan was to have one such reserved spot for every ten spots on the list. In the end, this was never proposed to the Central Committee.
In my experience as a Central Committee member, this was not because the Central Committee would not approve. From what I have seen, anything Netanyahu introduces to the Central Committee will be approved overwhelmingly. If Netanyahu had introduced a plan for reserved spots chosen by him, it would have won a majority.
If he had actually intended to do so, it is possible he may have been thwarted by circumstances: Though still a minority, the settler factions won a significant number of seats on the Central Committee. The Central Committee meets in two stages: the first is as the “Convention,” in this capacity it can more easily change the party’s constitution – with a majority. After about three months it reverts to the Central Committee, where a two-thirds majority is required for constitutional amendments. Netanyahu would get that two-thirds majority, and definitely a majority for any measure he proposes, but the first thing that must be done by the Convention is to elect certain positions in the party, including the “President” of the Convention and the “presidential board” (nesiut), which controls what proposals go to the Convention. Danny Danon, at the time a junior MK, and Mickey Eitan were both running for the Presidency. Netanyahu then decided he would as well.
Netanyahu would of course win this election, but anything less than spectacular showing could be embarrassing. Also at the time the vote was to be held, a petition was gathered with enough signatures requiring a secret ballot of Central Committee members. This was initiated by the Manhigut Yehudit faction. At the opening meeting of the Central Committee/Convention, where the Convention President was to be elected, the petition was submitted. When it seemed like it would not be respected, hundreds of Central Committee members began chanting hasha’it (secret), which made headlines. The Likud acquiesced to the request, but now, more than half a year later, and is still unclear how or when this vote will be held. It could even be decided it’s not necessary since the Convention has passed its time limit, but no one knows.
If he did initially want to pass the measure, Netanyahu probably figured it wasn’t worth the effort at that point. Now that elections are over, it can probably be very easily sorted out and if he desires to introduce a measure cancelling primaries he will certainly be able to have it approved. It is something which will be even easier if he claims its a measure against the “settlers” who are planning a Feiglinite coup. But again, who knows? Maybe these reports are feelers being put out by Netanyahu or certain people close to him.
One thing is certain: in the Israeli political system especially, where electoral trust (the citizen’s vote) is placed in parties, the institution of party primaries needs to be expanded, so that the government will be under the supervision of the people from which it derives power and the moral authority to govern. Cancellation of primaries in any sizable party is a step in the wrong direction. Even if this is something that is just being floated to see how people respond, or even if it’s just sensationalist reporting, or people close to the Prime Minister spreading outright lies, it needs to be opposed so that a clear message is sent to those who would attempt to cancel primaries or otherwise hamper democracy. Everything must be done so that representative democracy is expanded and not shrunk in Israel.