Netanyahu tells ‘Post’: My ‘forceful persuasion’ will win Likud vote

By David Horovitz March 1, 2006

Judge to decide fate of central committee meeting

(With Gil Hoffman)

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu decided to try to change the Likud’s election system before the March 28 election because he believed central committee members would only be willing to give up their power to select the party’s MKs with the election hanging over their heads, he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the movement’s Tel Aviv headquarters Tuesday.

The central committee is set to meet at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Wednesday to vote on the proposal to shift the power to choose the Knesset list to the party’s 130,000 members. Netanyahu expressed confidence that the proposal would pass due to his own ‘forceful persuasion.’

‘I chose to bring it up now deliberately, not only because I feel it will strengthen the Likud, but because the only time – the best time – for me to have a chance to pass it is now,’ Netanyahu said. ‘I can’t force anyone, but I can use forceful persuasion. A majority of Likud members understood that the public wants an open party.’

Despite Netanyahu’s efforts, it was still unclear Tuesday night if he had a majority to pass the proposal and if the meeting would even take place as scheduled. A Likud internal court, headed by Judge Avigdor Mishali, is to decide Wednesday morning whether the central committee meeting will need to be delayed for technical reasons.

Likud activists Aviad Visoli and Emanuel Weiser asked Mishali to delay the meeting by a week, saying Netanyahu violated a party bylaw enacted on December 12 that requires a two-week waiting period between approval of a proposal in the party’s law committee and final passage in the central committee. Weiser also asked the judge to order that the vote to be held by secret ballot.

‘The waiting period and the requirement to vote by secret ballot were enacted because the previous Likud chairman [Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] abused the party,’ Weiser said. ‘Netanyahu doesn’t want to give the central committee members time to think about how wrong the proposal is. He just wants to pass everything quickly, without deliberation.’

Likud legal adviser Ya’acov Weinroth told the judge that changes to the bylaws only take effect after a new central committee is elected.

Netanyahu spent the day talking to committee members. Likud telemarketers shifted from calling the general population to ask them to vote Likud on March 28 to calling committee members and asking them to back the proposal.

Netanyahu said the change in the party’s election system was a continuation of his efforts to reform the party that began when the central committee decided to remove ‘criminal elements’ from Likud institutions.

‘I am seeking a bigger, more open, more democratic Likud,’ Netanyahu said. ‘I want to move away from the power of one or the power of 3,000. I will manage to bring the proposal through [the committee] and pass it, just like I passed the reform in the ports.’

Netanyahu acknowledged that the ‘forceful persuasion’ he was applying in the central committee had not yet succeed in bringing new voters to the Likud, but he said he expected the public to recognize the threat posed by Hamas and come back to the party.

‘I have no doubt that people will wake up,’ Netanyahu said. ‘Reality will force them to wake up. I have no doubt about it.

Copyright © The Jerusalem Post