Likud internal court rejects appeals against merger with Kulanu party

Two MKs had objected to move that pushed them lower on the party’s election slate, endangering their Knesset seats

Backdropped by Jerusalem's Old City Walls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) holds a press conference with Moshe Kahlon, January 21, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Backdropped by Jerusalem's Old City Walls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) holds a press conference with Moshe Kahlon, January 21, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Likud internal court rejected Sunday an appeal filed by disgruntled party lawmakers against a plan to merge with the Kulanu party ahead of coming elections, amid concerns they could lose their seats in the Knesset.

The court also rejected an appeal for fresh party primaries to be held before the September 17 elections, but ruled that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can only make new reservations for his personal picks on the slate if the Likud Central Committee gives its approval.

Earlier this month two Likud backbench lawmakers filed an official appeal to the court a week after the Likud secretariat approved a merger deal between the party and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu party, with four slots on the Likud slate reserved for Kulanu members: numbers 5, 15, 29, 35.

The alliance — which brings Kahlon, once a Likud minister, back into the fold of his former party — angered some in Likud and came as the country prepared to hold an unprecedented second election in a year after coalition talks failed following April elections.

MKs Michal Shir and Ariel Kallner had fiercely opposed the merger decision. Shir, currently No. 29 on the Likud slate, and Kallner, No. 34, will both be pushed back three spots under the agreement. The party currently has 35 Knesset seats.

The two freshman lawmakers claimed the move was approved without due process and against the party’s internal rules.

Likud MK Michal Shir at an orientation day at the Knesset, April 29, 2019. (Noam Moscowitz/Knesset)

Though the secretariat approval vote was passed by a wide margin, Shir and Kallner weren’t the only Likud members not pleased by Kahlon’s homecoming. MKs Haim Katz and Gideon Sa’ar were among those who boycotted the vote, the Walla news site reported at the time.

In an apparent effort to appease the backbench lawmakers who will likely lose their position due to the alliance, the Likud secretariat also pledged to expand the so-called Norwegian Law, which allows ministers to resign as Knesset members and vacate their seats for the next candidates on the party list. Likud said it would amend the law — which is currently limited to one resignation per party — to four.

Kulanu was formed by Kahlon ahead of the 2015 elections and championed socially friendly economic policies, particularly for young families.

In April 9 election the Likud party won 35 seats and Kulanu won four, down from the 10 it clinched in the 2015 election. Netanyahu has said he he hopes the merger will boost Likud to 40 seats.

After he was unable to form a majority coalition following the April vote, Netanyahu dissolved parliament and called fresh elections for September.

The coming elections have seen several parties on both the right and left of the political field make overtures to unite with allies on joint slates to maximize their chances for winning seats in the Knesset.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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