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Netanyahu Plans Controversial Changes in Likud

Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to change the Likud's image to one of clean-handedness, and his first step is to strip the party's Central Committee of the power to choose its Knesset candidates.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/22/2006, 9:35 AM / Last Update: 2/22/2006, 12:32 PM

Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with reporters at Likud Headquarters in the Metzudat Ze'ev building in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and explained his proposal:
"The Central Committee will continue to be the party's supreme body, and it will make the party's rules. But we want to transfer the power of choosing the party's candidates to the entire party membership nationwide. This will be accompanied by opening the membership to new members."

The party's legislative committee will convene tomorrow, and is expected to approve the proposal. The idea will then be brought for a vote in the 3,000-strong Central Committee itself, where it will have a tougher time.

Most commentators begrudgingly approved Netanyahu's move. They criticized his timing and political motivations, but admitted that it would cleanse the Likud of the stain of underhanded and dishonorable politicking. At present, it is a well-known joke within the Likud that its MKs are forced to make the rounds of Central Committee members' sons' Bar Mitzvahs in order to assure their high standing with them. In addition, many members are accused of working only to receive jobs for themselves and family members from the MKs they help elect.

Shevah Stern, a Central Committee member, told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine why he supports the measure:
"This is what the public wants. A few hundred members abused their power for their own personal benefit, and the public holds this against all of us. This is a stain on the entire Central Committee. If we remove some of the power from the Committee, there is a chance that it will give the entire party more power."

Stern acknowledged that if Netanyahu's proposal is defeated, "it will be damaging to the Likud and to the entire right-wing camp."

Members who oppose the proposal say that if approved, it might cause their motivation to help the party on Election Day to drop.