Likud boots out two primary candidates for party-clashing views

Likud boots out two primary candidates for party-clashing views

Members of the New Likud voice support for public transportation on the Sabbath, even if it means ultra-Orthodox parties would bring down government

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of New Likud members Nir Hirschman, left, and Hadar Weisman. (Channel 12)
Screen capture from video of New Likud members Nir Hirschman, left, and Hadar Weisman. (Channel 12)

The Likud elections committee on Tuesday expelled from the party two members of a controversial internal movement that aims to challenge party doctrine, after they declared their readiness to bring down a government rather than abandon their principles.

The “New Likud” movement tweeted that not only were Hadar Weisman and Nir Hirschman disqualified from running in the February 5 primaries to select the party’s slate for national elections on April 9, but that their membership in Likud was revoked.

New Likud said Weisman and Hirschman, who are hoping to eventually win seats in the Knesset, will appeal the decision with the Likud party’s internal tribunal and if that fails they will go to Israel’s civil courts.

“The shameful decision will be immediately appealed to the supreme court of the Likud, and if we are not satisfied, we will continue to external courts and we will not stop until we reach the Supreme [Court],” the movement tweeted.

On Saturday night Channel 12 news broadcast a report about New Likud in which Weisman and Hirschman stated that if elected to the Knesset, they would vote in favor of public transportation on the Sabbath even if that meant the collapse of a right-wing government due to ultra-Orthodox parties leaving the coalition. They also openly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for becoming embroiled in corruption cases including accepting expensive gifts from benefactors.

Ultra-Orthodox parties oppose public transportation on Friday night and Saturday on the grounds that it is a violation of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

In forming its decision, the Likud committee wrote, “It would be untenable for the party to allow a person to compete to be a representative in the Knesset when he declares in advance that in order to promote his personal views… he is prepared to vote to bring down the government,” Channel 12 news reported.

“My movement’s election committee decided today to dismiss me and cancel my membership in Likud because I said that it is forbidden to accept gifts, and that I said that a Knesset member must obey his conscience on the critical issues of our lives here,” Hirschman responded, according to Channel 12. “Gifts are forbidden: forbidden to a clerk, forbidden to a policeman, forbidden to an income tax official, and forbidden to a prime minister. Furthermore, an MK must be scrupled, and must, on certain critical critical issues, act according to his conscience in accordance with what he promised his voters.”

In a controversial move, the Likud Central Committee earlier this month announced that it was freezing the membership of 14 members of the New Likud faction and that they would not be able to run in the primaries.

Illustrative photo of the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The New Likudniks was founded in 2011 by leaders of the social justice protests, which that summer saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis take to the streets to demand government action on behalf of the middle class. The group’s stated agenda is to push what it says are middle-class interests from within Likud. It takes no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But many Likud members, as well as journalists and pundits, have questioned the right-wing credentials of the New Likudniks. They have accused members of the group of being undercover leftists trying to influence the party from within.

New Likud claims it has 8,000 members who are eligible to vote in the primaries. The Likud party has some 125,000 members, in all.

Police have recommended bribery charges against Netanyahu in three cases. One of the probes relates to gifts Netanyahu received from billionaire benefactors and the other two cases involve suspected quid pro quos he is alleged to have provided or considered providing in exchange for favorable media coverage.

It is now down to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu in the cases. Despite strong opposition from Netanyahu and his supporters who say announcing indictments would be unfair before the elections, Mandelblit is expected to reveal his decision in the coming weeks.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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