Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's efforts to ban Moshe Feiglin from office would also affect former prisoners Dov Shilansky and Natan Sharansky if implemented.
Michael Fuah, managing director of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within the Likud, published an open letter Wednesday, asking party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to cease his efforts to classify those arrested for opposing the government on ideological grounds as criminals.
Netanyahu has been spearheading a campaign to rid the Likud of "criminal" and "extreme" elements, submitting a proposal to the central committee that would ban anyone who served more than three months in prison from ever holding office in the party. Moshe Feiglin, who received 12.5% of the vote in the recent Likud primaries, was sentenced to six months in prison for the British Mandate-era crime of sedition after organizing mass civil-disobedience following the signing of the Oslo Accords. He was allowed to do the prison time in the form of public service, but the legal status of having served time remains the same.
Feiglin was prevented from running for Knesset in the last elections because of a similar reason. Likud Elections Committee Chairman Judge Tzvi Cohen ruled, however, that Feiglin's crime is not considered one of "moral turpitude," and that therefore the disqualification was only temporary. Netanyahu's proposed addition to the party guidelines, would, however, permanently disqualify anyone who served more than three months in prison.
While Fuah said that removing criminal elements from the Likud is a noble effort, the way Netanyahu is going about it is liable to remove outstanding members of the party such as the Tagar movement's Eli Sheetrit or former Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky, who also served prison time for ideological reasons.
"Valued members like Atty. Dov Shilansky, who was sentenced to 21 months in prison during the protests against accepting German Holocaust reparations, would not be able to serve in the party unless they receive permission from Likud judge Tzvi Cohen," Fuah wrote. "Former Minister Natan Sharansky and MK Yuli Edelstein, who were sentenced to long prison terms in the USSR as Prisoners of Zion, will also have to request a special dispensation from Cohen. This situation is intolerable and ridiculous. MK Michael Eitan's proposal that only those whose crimes were tainted by moral turpitude be excluded would have solved all these problems."
"It is clear that the actions of Shilansky, Sharansky, Edelstein and Feiglin were not crimes of dishonor," Fuah wrote. "These ideologues are symbols of public struggles for which they paid a heavy personal price, but because of mistaken terminology, they have been classified as people unfit to represent the party without special permission from the head of the election committee."
"Netanyahu's refusal to limit the disqualifications to those who committed dishonorable crimes is not practical," the letter continued, "and is also unethical from a Jewish perspective. The sweeping disqualifications reject the Jewish concept of teshuva, repentance."
The Likud Central Committee is set to vote on Netanyahu's proposal this Sunday.