Daily Israel Report

Jewish Home MK Attacks Plans to Give Party Head More Power

MK Chetboun attacks plans to give chairman Bennett 'absolute power', accuses him of 'liquidating religious Zionism'.
By Arutz Sheva Staff
First Publish: 6/26/2014, 10:04 PM

MK Yoni Chetboun
MK Yoni Chetboun
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Jewish Home party leadership is facing a string of criticism from MKs and party members over a newly proposed party law, critics of which claim will give party chairman Naftali Bennett almost "absolute power" over the party.

The proposed party law in its current form would give Bennett the authority to fill every fifth spot on the party's Knesset list with an external candidate of his own discretion.

Likewise, the law would require each candidate for the list to undergo a qualification period of thirty months (2.5 years) membership in the party before running for the Knesset. The period could be shortened - but only by the party chairman, again at his own discretion.

All party placement for executive positions in the Knesset, including positions such as minister, deputy minister and committee chairman, would be selected by the chairman with the approval of the party center, and not be selected by the center directly as has been done in the past.

"Trampling on religious Zionism"

The law has sparked outrage from Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun, who on Thursday attacked it for giving the party chairman near absolute control over the nature of the party.

"There's a struggle here over the path. Is the Jewish Home just a substitute party for the Likud, or a movement with values? Bennett's law roughly tramples on the values of religious Zionism and critically harm the public trust," said Chetboun.

The MK took a jab at Bennett's business background, saying "Jewish Home is not a business platform or a start-up initiative, it's a movement with a tradition dozens of years old of honoring the Torah and the state, a religious Zionist movement. Someone is trying to liquidate it, and that we won't allow."

"It's very troubling that at a time when the whole nation is busy with the status of the kidnapped teens, Naftali Bennett is busy with party wheeling and dealing," added Chetboun. "Bennett wants a list in his own image that will give him sole power over the Jewish Home, and to escape public selection. We won't allow that."

Chetboun closed by promising a struggle for the public's right to choose who would be on the party list.

Adding irony to the situation is the fact that Bennett attacked his erstwhile ally Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party in January for being a "dictatorship," given that the party did not hold open primaries.

Chetboun and Bennett have been at odds in the past, with Chetboun in March refusing Bennett's orders and voting against the Enlistment Law that mandated hareidi IDF enlistment, arguing that it split Israeli society. Bennett punished Chetboun by removing him from the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security for the entire summer session, and barring him from submitting laws during the first six weeks of the following session.

Minister Ariel: "I asked them to wait on the law"

Chetboun was not the only one to attack the new party law.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), who heads the National Union faction that joined with Jewish Home's list in the last elections, said Thursday that the law should be waited on.

Speaking to National Union activists, Ariel spoke about unifying the faction with Jewish Home, and also criticized the new law.

"The connection (with Jewish Home) needs to be true and stable, and therefore I advised my friends in the Mafdal (National Religious Party, one of the factions which makes up the Jewish Home) to wait a bit with passing the new law, so that we won't need to add clauses or change anything after there will be party unification," said Ariel.

Criticism from Jewish Home's secular branch

Adding to the criticism was Jewish Home's secular branch, which demanded at least one secular candidate to be guaranteed in the top ten spots of the party list.

Inbal Lieber, head of the secular branch, said Thursday "with Naftali Bennett's election to party chairman, he asked to open the party to the wider public, and now is the time to show that it wasn't just a slogan but something that will be acted on."

Lieber noted that secular MK Ayelet Shaked of the party "is great and praiseworthy, but she's only one, and there need to be more. Jewish Home isn't a sectorial party anymore, but rather the Jewish Home for all of us."

The secular branch head noted that nearly 50% of the Knesset mandates in the last elections were for secular candidates, "and that needs to be expressed in the next list, and therefore there has to be at least one reserved spot for a secular in the top ten" spots on the list.