Jewish Home Party Torn Over Bennett Power Ploy

YERUSHALAYIM -

A new Jewish Home party constitution which would expand the powers of its chairman, Naftali Bennett, has precipitated a crisis in the ranks, Arutz Sheva reports.

The proposed changes would allow Bennett to fill every fifth spot on the party’s Knesset list with an outside candidate of his choosing, give him power to determine placements for Knesset ministerial posts, and the discretion to waive the 2.5 year membership qualification period to run on the party list.

MK Moti Yogev charged that these and other changes would give Bennett “absolute control of the secretariat,” without necessarily increasing the party’s influence “in the Knesset, the government and the people of Israel.” But,” he warned, it could “bring a wide loss of public confidence, a loss of unity in the religious Zionist public, and even a split in the public.”

MK Yoni Chetboun denounced the move as symptomatic of pandering for votes in the secular public at the expense of religious principles. “The obsession for mandates cannot come at the expense of our values, we have a responsibility to preserve the Jewish identity of the state,” he said.

The Jewish Home constitution council defended the proposed changes on the grounds that they will help to ensure party stability and that it will be brought for confirmation by the party’s committee in the near future.

Bennett may have been emboldened by his strong showing in the polls. A poll released Monday by the Knesset Channel found that 39% of respondents called Economics Minister Naftali Bennett leader of the “right-wing” in Israel, giving him the edge over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu came in second with 28%, while 20% picked Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as their right-wing leader of choice.

The poll also indicated that Jewish Home would win 19 seats if elections were held today, making it the No. 2 party in the country. The Likud would remain the largest at 26 seats. Labor would have 18 seats, Yesh Atid and Meretz 10 each, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu 8, UTJ (United Torah Judaism) 8, Shas 7, Movement 4, and Arab parties Balad, Hadash, and Ta’al a total of 10.

A Yisrael Beytenu spokesman said in response that his party would soon regain right-wing support as emerges from the shadow of its merger with Likud.

“I think the party, its image and platform have suffered during the last almost two years because of its partnership with Likud. It created confusion in the minds of some voters about what we stood for and allowed other newer parties to come and poach our traditional standpoints on a host of issues.”