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Jewish Home Constitution Crisis Has Party Split on 'Values'

MKs Chetboun and Yogev vow opposition to constitution empowering Bennett, say it spells 'end of the religious Zionist party.'
By Hezki Ezra, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 9/1/2014, 5:08 PM

Yoni Chetboun with fellow Jewish Home MKs
Yoni Chetboun with fellow Jewish Home MKs
Flash 90

The crisis in Economics Minister Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home party appears to be reaching a boiling point, as several party MKs on Monday berated Bennett's new party constitution that critics claim will give him "absolute power" - and which two MKs in particular say threatens the religious Zionist movement.

MK Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home) criticized the final draft of the constitution that has been compiled in recent days, which will reportedly allow Bennett to fill every fifth spot on the party's Knesset list with an external candidate based on his own discretion.

It also gives Bennett discretion to cancel for candidates of his choosing the 2.5 year membership qualification period to be on the party list, and lets Bennett select all placements for Knesset executive positions, such as ministerial posts, with the party's central committee approving the choice and not making it as was done previously.

"Only weak leadership fears the public," charged Chetboun against the unprecedented power given to Bennett. "The time has come to believe in the public and its strength; cancelling the influence of the voters will lead to the model of Kadima, Shinui and Yesh Atid, which crashed" in public support.

Aside from its change in the party's power balance, Chetboun also argued that the "constitution seeks to change the values of the religious Zionist party, under which it would become 'Likud B.' I will continue fighting the new constitution; otherwise it will be the end of the religious Zionist party."

"The obsession for mandates can not come at the expense of our values, we have a responsibility to preserve the Jewish identity of the state," concluded the MK.

Chetboun's warning cries echo those of an Jewish Home inside source, who told Arutz Sheva on condition of anonymity two weeks ago that Bennett's office is trying to reduce the influence of the religious public in Jewish Home. Instead, the source said Bennet wants to focus on the secular public in an attempt to increase political power, even at the cost of losing the support of religious members.

Warnings of a "split"

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) joined Chetboun's criticism on Monday, particular slamming his party for mismanagement.

"It's unfortunate that I need to be updated via the media about the Jewish Home constitution. This is a management that wants to turn the religious Zionist party from being a democratic party with values of 'together' into an 'only' party," said Yogev, playing on the Hebrew words yahad and yahid to warn of exclusionary policy.

The MK said he could not delve into the details of the new constitution "because it hasn't been presented to me. Also party meetings have not been held for the last month and a half, and the constitution has never been presented for debate by the party."

Yogev roundly slammed the constitution for giving "excess authority" to Bennett, "including the absolute control of the secretariat." He added that it wouldn't necessarily raise the party's influence "in the Knesset, the government and the people of Israel, but can bring a wide loss of public confidence, a loss of unity in the religious Zionist public, and even a split in the public."

The Jewish Home constitution council defended what the two MKs expressed as a loss of values and pandering for votes, saying in response that "Jewish Home members are fed up with the factionalism that brought us to three mandates, and therefore support by a wide majority the constitution that will bring us to the leadership."

It was announced earlier on Monday that numerous reservations were approved on the constitution, and that it will be brought for confirmation by the party's committee in the near future.

Hundreds of reservations have been brought up in recent months, including those on very fundamental and meaningful points of the constitution which were submitted by a wide range of party members.