Netanyahu delays Knesset list vote in bid to exclude Feiglin

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu will work to change the Likud charter so as to prevent Moshe Feiglin, head of the far-right Jewish Leadership fin the party, from running for a place on the party’s Knesset list. Netanyahu wants to avoid stigmatizing the party as extremist. A vote on the party slate that was to have taken place in the Likud Central Committee on January 3 has been postponed to January 9. The same sessions will also see the committee vote on a proposal to reserve the number-two slot on the Likud list for Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Netanyahu informed Shalom of his decision Wednesday, with the foreign minister commenting that the move was the right one and that he was „in favor of any step that would make the Likud cleaner.” Netanyahu called a meeting of legal experts, including chairman of the Likud elections committee Tzvi Cohen and party director general Arik Barami, in an effort to find a loophole to thwart Feiglin’s candidacy for a place on the slate. A clause was in the works that would prevent anyone convicted of a crime and who has served time in prison for at least three months from running on the Likud list for the Knesset. Feiglin is believed to have a good chance of being elected to a realistic slot on the list, as the Jewish Leadership fnumbers 130 members in the Likud Central Committee. In November 1997, Feiglin was sentenced to six months in prison and six months’ probation for fomenting revolt while working against the Oslo Accords as part of the Zo Artzenu group. Netanyahu wants to stop Feiglin in his tracks as soon as possible to prevent an extremist label on the party being used against it by Kadima. Netanyahu realizes he may find himself embroiled in a legal struggle including petitions to the High Court of Justice as a result of his attempts to bar Feiglin from running, since according to the Basic Law on The Knesset, a person can serve as an MK if more than seven years have passed since his/her conviction. Netanyahu believes that even if his move fails, it will show that he is ready for drastic to stop Feiglin. A senior Likud figure said Wednesday that he hoped Netanyahu had looked at things closely. „It’s no secret that Netanyahu draws and then finds himself without [ammunition],” the source said. Likud rebels, among them MK Moshe Kahalon, said they were uncomfortable with a clause directed at one person. Nevertheless, Kahalon said, „I can’t attack a decision like this that is directed at a person who has committed a crime, and I will support it.” MK Ehud Yatom said, „I have a problem that the movement’s charter would be against the law.” Kadima dismissed Netanyahu’s steps and said it was surprising that he had done nothing to distance Feiglin over recent years and that now he remembered to fight him. „Up until yesterday, Bibi [Netanyahu] was in favor of the Greater Land of Israel. Tomorrow he may be for Meretz. Nothing surprises me when it comes to Bibi; everything is a show,” a statement from the party said. Sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Bibi was clearly not going to get rid of Feiglin and his supporters. „When Arik was chair of the movement, we made efforts to get rid of them and couldn’t. He knows it doesn’t stand a chance. It’s all for show,” a source said. Sharon’s camp slammed Likud ministers who did not resign from the government, saying that what interested them most was to stand for elections in the Likud Central Committee while they still had their Volvo and their aides. It is believed that the Likud ministers will resign only after the January 9 selection of the Likud slate, although Netanyahu wanted them out of the cabinet sooner. Senior Likud figures said Netanyahu wants to head the opposition and therefore it is important that the Likud ministers leave the government. Meanwhile, Netanyahu said Wednesday there was no possibility of his heading a coalition established before December 20, quashing rumors about his supposed intention to enlist 61 MKs to form an alternative government. According to the Basic Law on The Cabinet, if such a coalition were formed, it would require President Moshe Katzav to appoint one of its members to form a new government. Netanyahu, in his first appearance in the Likud Knesset fin his new-old position of Likud chairman, said that the time left before elections was enough to bring back voters to the party. „There is not and will not be room in the Likud for corruption, extremism, and lawbreakers,” Netanyahu told the faction. „The Likud will bring back glory and honesty, clean hands and democracy in the spirit of Menachem Begin.” Netanyahu revealed the principles of the Likud platform, based on a moderate stance while protecting security, a war on poverty, raising the standard of living, and an unrelenting struggle against corruption. He announced the establishment of a platform committee that would include Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Health Minister Dan Naveh, fwhip MK Gideon Sa’ar and MKs Yuval Steinitz and Uzi Landau. „This is one of the steps that will help us refute attempts to depict the Likud as an extremist and marginal party,” he said. „Democracy is one of the foundations of our strength,” Sa’ar said. „It differentiates us from other parties those that have no kind of democratic process, and those in which the democratic process is in doubt.”