One piece of political news that probably went unnoticed to most, especially among all the coalition-negotiation rumors, was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering cancelling the Likud’s primaries.
An article about this was first published on Jan. 28th, just after the Knesset election on Israel’s Walla news site. Then, over the last few days it sprung up again in Ma’ariv/NRG and Yediot. Another Feb. 10 article in Ma’ariv claims that the Prime Minister intends to have the primaries cancelled before ministers are sworn into the government – that is, potentially in a matter of weeks.
To most people this is just internal party politics, but it’s really not. It directly affects the democratic nature of the State of Israel. In Israel, voters do not choose individual candidates, they choose slates. In effect, there are 120 legislators, but not a single representative. The candidates themselves are chosen via internal party processes – sometimes by a committee – a larger “central committee” or a smaller secretariat or selection committee – sometimes by the chairman, sometimes by the membership in an open primary. Those primaries are the only opportunity a citizen has to vote for an actual legislator, the only time a legislator directly faces a citizen and is held accountable for his record.
Unfortunately, only a few parties hold primaries. Likud and Labor do. This past election cycle, the Jewish Home held primaries, but only half of its list was chosen in the primaries, the rest by the central committee of T’kuma/the National Union. Kadima held primaries for its chairman, but cancelled its primaries for its list because it was expected to only get a maximum of 3 seats (in the end it got two). In total, about 42-3 Members of Knesset were chosen in primaries, meaning about 1/3rd of Knesset Members were chosen by actual people and not by party bosses. Even more unfortunate, is the fact that only a small percentage, something like three percent, of the public is eligible to vote in a party primary, and even less actually do vote.
But still it’s a start. If Israel won’t change over to a district-based electoral system (one representative per district), the only hope for the Members of Knesset being chosen by the people is through the primaries.
The alleged reason for cancelling primaries is, reportedly, that there are those who believe that the Likud’s list was too right-wing and that cost it votes and at the same time, not all party members voted for the party. Or in other words, the “settlers” registered to the party to push candidates like Tzipi Hotovely, Danny Danon, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Moshe Feiglin. The problem with that allegation is that there are many factions within the party who behave this way (like unions and members registered by vote contractors); there probably was a higher voting rate among settlers who were registered for the Likud then those who weren’t; and of the 11 seats the Likud-Beytenu list lost from its prior standing the Knesset, seven mandates worth of votes went to the right. Any internal party player, especially the Prime Minister knows all this.
It is true though that the primaries are intensely manipulated – by the various factions/MKs/branch chairmen/vote contractors (vote contracting, as I have explained elsewhere refers to the practice of registering people to the party and then kind of bargaining with their votes for personal gain). This is a huge problem. But this manipulation can only take place because so few people are registered to the party. Many of them are registered by internal players, who can trade on their votes.
If, on the other hand, a million or 500,000 people instead of 120,000 were registered to the Likud, and those people were registered by the party itself and not for any specific internal party player, it would be too hard for any vote contractor or even group, such as a union, to register and control the numbers necessary to manipulate the system. Vote contracting in its current powerful form, would be a thing of the past.
That would require an immense registration effort by the party over several years. That is very possible. In Israel, however, long term solutions, are not the preferred solutions. It’s easier and more seductive to maneuver one’s way to power, which in this case may mean canceling the primaries and concentrate power in the hands of an even smaller group of people.
The Eretz Nehedert satire program decided the best way to knock the Right was to have the Temple as a back drop and Ayelet Shaked draped over the Ark of the Covenant with Miri Regev, Tzipi Hotovely, Moshe Feiglin and others gathered around.
‘Yair Lapid’, asked by Bibi if he didn’t mind the Temple service, said, “sure, why not have a barbeque”.
Another screen shot:
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Temple becoming a central element in the public discourse.
Right now, a lot of eyebrows are probably being raised as high as the champagne glasses, after Defense Minister Ehud Barak granted Ariel College his stamp of approval. This was the last step needed for Ariel College to receive official recognition and accreditation as a university.
Barak instructed Major General Nitzan Alon to recognize the school, located in the city of Ariel in the Shomron, as a university, after refusing to do so since the paper crossed his desk in September.
Barak will be ending this phase of his political career following his decision to not run in the upcoming elections.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein also recommended that the approval be granted.
But there are still roadblocks ahead as the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities, who oppose the accreditation on political grounds, plan to take the decision to the High Court of Justice, where they believe the decision will be overturned.
The Likud’s highest ranking female candidate, MK Tzipi Hotovely called for the adoption of the Levy report and more construction in all parts of Israel at victory party last night in Or Yehuda, Israel, attended by hundreds of her supporters.
“Construction, construction, construction, in all parts of the country,” Hotovely declared.
In the recent Likud primaries Hotovely won the 10th spot on the Likud’s list, making her the highest ranking female candidate from the Likud party. On the joint Likud-Beytenu list, Hotovely has the 15th spot.
Hotovely said that her victory shows that clean and principled politics can win out and called on voters to support the Likud so that the Likud can follow through with its pro-Land of Israel agenda.
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, 34, is an attorney and a doctorate student at the Faculty of Law in Tel Aviv University. She is Orthodox and describes herself as “religious right winger.” When she was first elected, at the tender age of 30, she was the youngest MK in history. But she is also a staunch defender of women’s rights and chairs the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women.
Hotovely’s parents immigrated from then Soviet Georgia.
She began to gain notoriety in Israel in 2006, when she became a regular panelist on a Channel 10 political show hosted by Dan Margalit and began to write a column for NRG. After joining Likud in 2008, she made it to the 18th spot on the party’s 2009 Knesset list and became an MK. In the November primaries she reached the 10th spot, making her one of her party’s top leaders.
Her views on settlements and legitimizing Israeli rule in Judea and Samaria are expected to play a major role in the next Netanyahu government, along with Danny Danon, who has the sixth place position.
This is the second entry in an in depth series about the composition of the Likud’s list of candidates for the Knesset. Yesterday’s entry discussed the fact that the Israeli media were quick to condemn the Likud’s rightward shift, but in fact of the first 25 of the Likud’s list (the candidates who are likely to be in the Knesset), 20 are members of the current Likud Knesset faction, three were required to be new faces,and the two other new candidates, Moshe Feiglin and Tzachi HaNegbi, who are both familiar faces to the Likud, balance each other out ideologically. So the Likud faction in the upcoming Knesset and the last are pretty much the same.
The big shock, to the media at least, was the fact that Benny Begin, Mickey Eitan and Dan Meridor – whom Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Liberman once labeled the Likud’s ‘Feinschmeckers’ – did not achieve realistic spots. But can it be claimed the Likud won’t be the Likud without them?
Well for one thing, the Likud was the Likud without Meridor and Begin for about a decade. Both of them left the party, each for different reasons (Meridor was finance minister and left over a disagreement about the Shekel exchange rate in 1997 while Begin left to found the Herut party in protest of Netanyahu’s executing the Hevron withdrawal and continuing with the Oslo process).
It should also be noted that Begin didn’t do that poorly in the primaries, he ranked 22nd on the national part of the list, but was bumped back to number 38 on the list because of all the spots reserved for geographic districts and certain demographics. What was surprising about Begin was that he had been number five in 2008 and now dropped so many spaces.
But this was a different election than in 2008, where every Knesset Member feared for his political future, new candidates from Kadima and Moshe Feiglin, who was expected to win a spot in the top 20, were introduced into the mix.
That Begin did as well as he did is surprising given that he has been completely inactive politically. He has no aides. He does not do political events. He does not register Likud members. Nor has he been very active or vocal publicly for the last few years (though in fairness to him, he had health problems). In any political system, even a ‘Likud prince’ like Benny Begin needs to campaign and he didn’t.
Begin also came out against “Hok Hasdarah” saying he was against “bypassing” the High Court of Justice, adopting the Leftist position about the supremacy of the Supreme Court, despite the lack of a constitution and the principle of “parliamentary supremacy” (according to which parliament is the supreme lawmaking body).
This earned him a bad reputation among the Likud’s ideological membership, but that didn’t seal his fate. He could have received sufficient support elsewhere, but he didn’t campaign. And again, despite that, he still managed to score 21, 600 votes – more than twice what was needed to win in 2008 – and rank 22nd among the national candidates. The difference between him and Carmel Shama HaCohen, the last ‘national’ candidate to get a secure spot, was a mere 230 votes.
Nevertheless, the loss of Begin would be a blow to the Likud. Begin is a powerful and respected voice against Palestinian statehood, so if he were again offered to be a minister-without-portfolio that would be good for the Likud and the country.
But remember, it was that opposition to Palestinian statehood that led people to say in 2008 that his rejoining of the Likud had made the Likud too extreme. For example, here is an Arutz Sheva interview with Dan Meridor, where Meridor is asked if he would be able to work with Begin despite their sharp disagreement regarding Palestinian statehood. Meridor tries to smooth over those disagreements, but acknowledges that they exist.
It is therefore quite disingenuous now for pundits to claim that Likud without Begin is an extremist Likud, when they claimed that the Likud with Begin was an extremist Likud.
Like Begin, Meridor was not politically active. I met his chief of staff once. The meeting did not go well. He made insulting comments, stating that only an “abel” (apparently Arabic pejorative for mentally disabled) “doesn’t believe we’re giving them [the Palestinians] something [a state],” that was not long after my associate and I had politely informed him that we represented a more nationalist group. Going into the meeting, we knew Meridor’s politics, but we thought we might find common ground on other issues. The way Meridor’s Chief of Staff handled it was just bad politics. If that was an example of Meridor’s political strategy, it’s no surprise that he lost.
Just two months ago, Likud MKs were celebrating what they described as important victories for the party. The first was the approval of upgrading of Ariel College to Ariel University, and the second was the Edmond Levy Report, which invalidated the Talia Sasson report, and declared that Israel has full rights according to international law over all of Judea and Samaria.
But in those two months, neither declared victories managed to make it over the finish line. Some people, in fact, blame Prime Minister Netanyahu for the Edmond Levy Report not moving forward.
JewishPress.com caught up with MK Tzipi Hotovely, one of the more vocal and proud proponents of both issues and asked her where things stand, and if they aren’t being finalized by this government, what chance do they have in the next one, which won’t have as favorable a coalition configuration?
Hotovely told JewishPress.com that in fact, she believes that the final steps for approval of the upgrade for Ariel University will happen before the elections, as its too important to not happen.
As for the Edmond Levy Report, Hotovely said that it’s also very important, but getting it approved is proving to be very difficult, as it has many obstacles and opponents. She believes it will be passed by the next government. And in response to the question as to Netanyahu’s possible role in holding it back, Hotovely stated that she just spoke with the Prime Minister and he told her he is working hard to get it approved.