In a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party’s internal court struck down on Monday a request to move up the party primaries and barred the prime minister from reserving two slots on the party list for candidates of his choosing.
A petition filed by MK Moshe Feiglin, who is expected to challenge Netanyahu for the party leadership, overturned a Likud Central Committee vote last week that accepted the prime minister’s request to move up the primaries from January 6 to December 31 — the same day as the vote for the party leadership. Moreover, the court denied Netanyahu’s request to reserve the 11th and 23rd slots on the list.
The legal body explained that under the Likud constitution, a two-thirds majority is required to push the measure forward, and Netanyahu fell short 41 votes.
Another hearing will be held on Tuesday, and Netanyahu is expected to appeal the decision.
A statement from the Likud’s primaries committee called the ruling “puzzling,” and said the the decision to move up the party leadership vote was done in order to save money.
The Likud Central Committee voted Wednesday in favor of Netanyahu’s proposal to set an earlier date for the party’s primaries.
The motion was ostensibly intended to clear the way for the chosen Likud head to begin preparations for the March 17 elections as soon as possible, but was seen by many as an attempt to thwart a rumored leadership bid by popular former minister Gideon Sa’ar. Sa’ar announced on Thursday that he would not run for the party leadership.
The Likud said some two-thirds of the 3,700 eligible party members cast ballots on the measure — approving it by 1,567 to 835 — in what was seen as a litmus test for Netanyahu’s popularity within the party.