Jewish Home Constitution Vote: Showdown is Tonight

Religious Zionist party convention meets to vote on chairman Bennett's controversial proposal; opponents seek secret ballots.

Gil Ronen ,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

The Jewish Home Convention will take place Wednesday evening at Tel Aviv University, with 1,180 Central Committee members set to vote on a controversial party constitution proposed by its chairman, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett.

Opponents of the constitution want the vote to be carried out through secret ballots, so that members vote their conscience without fear of retribution. Bennett wants the vote to be open.

Two Knesset members – Motti Yogev and Yoni Chetboun – have been spearheading the effort to sink Bennett's proposal, which they say grants him excessive power and enables him to determine the makeup of the Jewish Home's Knesset list in a way that will change the party's character.

MK Chetboun 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.

Bennett reportedly wants the Jewish Home's list to include secular candidates and people who will appeal to the Russian-speaking and Druze sectors, among others. The proposed constitution will allow Bennett to fill every fifth spot on the party's Knesset list with an external candidate based on his own discretion. It will give him the power to cancel for candidates of his choosing the 2.5 year membership qualification period to be on the party list, and let him select all placements for Knesset executive positions and ministerial posts. The party's central committee will be limited to approving the choices and not making them, as it currently does.

Bennett's supporters say that the constitution draft is more moderate and balanced now, after amendments were submitted to the Constitution Committee. The proposed reforms, they add, will draw in additional electorates without detracting from the party's religious-Zionist character.

Bennett's opponents also claim that the vote on the constitutional amendments should take place only after the formal merger between the Jewish Home and the Tekuma / National Union parties. Otherwise, they say, the constitution will only be binding for members of the Jewish Home who did not join the party on the Tekuma / National Union ticket.