Jewish Home Split Over 'Dictator' Bennett's Law

Party insiders reveal battle raging over new constitution, party pressure to silence criticism of it, and shift of focus to secular public.

Orli Harari, Ari Yashar ,

Naftali Bennett at a Jewish Home meeting
Naftali Bennett at a Jewish Home meeting
Flash 90

Even as Economics Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett on Friday pushed for a unilateral end of the Gaza operation, accompanied by several Israeli concessions and an essential return to the status quo, a fierce battle apparently awaits him - from within his own party.

A debate has been raging within the Jewish Home party about a controversial new party constitution that Bennett is advancing, which his critics say would give him almost "absolute power" over the party.

An inside source within Jewish Home revealed to Arutz Sheva on condition of anonymity that members of the party are preparing for a "holding-defense battle," even as the fighting ends in Operation Protective Edge.

The source accused Bennett of being a "dictator," saying that he was trying to grab power and dominate the party and its members.

He added that Bennett's office is trying to reduce the influence of the religious public in Jewish Home, and instead focus on the secular Israeli public in an attempt to increase its political power, even at the cost of losing the support of religious members.

An additional Jewish Home source told Arutz Sheva that there is intense pressure being exerted on members of the party not to speak to the media against the constitution.

The new party constitution would allow Bennett to fill every fifth spot on the party's Knesset list with an external candidate based on his own discretion. Also, every candidate for the list would have 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 again only at the party chairman's discretion.

Another point of contention in the law is that 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's central committee, and not be selected by the central committee directly as has been done in the past.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) has criticized the constitution as a "serious mishap," and likewise Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun declared that "Bennett's law roughly tramples on the values of religious Zionism and critically harm the public trust."

Criticism of the new constitution has come from secular members of the party as well. Inbal Lieber, head of Jewish Home's secular branch, demanded in June a great secular representation in the party list, calling for at least one spot reserved for a secular candidate in the top ten spots on the party list.

Other members of Jewish Home, as well as Bennett himself, have not publicly commented on the issue; however, it appears that a campaign by Bennett to try and explain the new constitution will be launched soon.