Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement with the Jewish Home party to place one of its candidates on Likud’s Knesset slate, in exchange for the party uniting with the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, has come under fire both inside and outside the ruling party and now faces legal challenges.
On Thursday morning, the chair of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, hinted the agreement could raise legal difficulties, saying “There is no precedent for an arrangement like the one reached by Netanyahu and Jewish Home, and there might be a discussion on the legality of this agreement.”
The arrangement reached Wednesday between Jewish Home’s chair Rafi Peretz and Netanyahu would see a member of Jewish Home appointed to Likud’s slate, but once elected to the Knesset, the lawmaker would split off and rejoin Jewish Home.
Jewish Home’s appointee for the Likud slate, who will occupy it’s 28th spot — reserved by the ruling party for a Netanyahu appointee — will be MK Eli Ben Dahan, who served as deputy defense minister in the outgoing government, the party said.
The Likud Secretariat, a powerful party committee that oversees its operations and manages its campaign, formally approved the deal on Thursday evening, despite the appeals against it.
But the agreement has drawn legal challenges both from within the ruling party’s ranks and outside of it.
A group of Likud Central Committee members appealed against the agreement to the party’s internal court on Thursday, railing against the “Trojan horse” who would reduce Likud’s parliamentary strength.
The appeal argues that “Netanyahu promised in the agreement [with Jewish Home] that one of the members of Knesset that will be included in the Likud list will be, in fact, a ‘Trojan horse,’ who is not a member of Likud and not bound to Likud’s values. In addition, immediately after the elections that same ‘Trojan horse’ would be allowed to abandon the faction’s ranks in favor of another faction.”
It asks the court, made up of influential party members, to forbid the move.
A similar appeal was made Thursday to Central Elections Committee chief Melcer by a group of top legal officials. Signed by leading experts on constitutional law, the appeal argues that allowing one party’s lawmaker to run in another party should be seen as a form of election fraud, as it constitutes an agreement between politicians to use votes for one party and artificially deliver them to another.
The appeal argues the agreement raises “very real concerns that such a commitment is illegal, violating basic principles of elections law and the integrity of election procedures, which is the ‘holy of holies’ of our democracy.”
Netanyahu also promised Jewish Home two ministerial positions in his next coalition if it merged with Otzma Yehudit.
Final lists for the April 9 elections must be submitted by Thursday night, so there appeared to be only a few short hours for the relevant institutions to debate and rule on the appeals.