The Jewish Home party voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to adopt a new constitution that gives chairman Naftali Bennett more power and promises to broaden the party’s appeal to secular voters.
Bennett overcame dissenting voices that had threatened to split the party earlier in the week through a compromise agreement that, in the end, won over 90% of the votes of the 1,180-member central committee.
Opponents dropped their demand for a secret ballot shortly before the vote was held.
According to the agreement, an advisory committee that will be established and headed by Rabbi Yitczhak Levy will submit a recommendation for the amendment of the constitution to the party’s congress within 3-5 months.
The vote appears to presage a shift away from the party’s Religious-Zionist principles.
MK Yoni Chetboun who, along with Motti Yogev led the opposition, charged 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 cannot come at the expense of our values; we have a responsibility to preserve the Jewish identity of the state,” the MK added.
The decision comes at a time when Jewish Home is doing well in opinion polls. A recent survey showed that if elections were held today, Jewish Home would win 19 seats in the Knesset, becoming the second-largest party in the coalition.
A further broadening of its electoral base could strengthen it even more. Bennett reportedly seeks to open the Jewish Home’s list to secular candidates and people who will appeal to the Russian-speaking and Druze sectors, among others.
The new constitution will empower him to fill every fifth spot on the party’s Knesset slate with an external candidate of his own choosing and to cancel, at his discretion, the 2.5 year membership qualification period to be on the party list.