Israel Supreme Court Postpones Likud

In the background of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States and admittedly tense meeting with US President Barack Obama, backdoor procedural Likud politics were taking place. As noted earlier regarding Netanyahu’s internal Likud troubles, the Prime Minister had requested that internal Likud elections for the party’s Central Committee and local branches be delayed by 2 years since the party’s current membership is too right wing. In order for this to happen, the Likud’s constitution must be changed.

Currently, the constitution stipulates that internal Likud elections must take place within 1 year of general elections. Netanyahu tried to bring about a vote to change the constitution to the effect that elections must take place within 3 years of general elections, and he sought to make this change retroactively, after the time when elections were originally supposed to have taken place. This is akin to the Knesset running out its term and then voting to enact a law retroactively that their term has been extended. The democratic nature of this move is dubious. Practically, the change in the Likud Constitution could postpone elections for decades, being that general elections usually happen within 3 years of one another.

In order to enact the change, Netanyahu had needed two thirds of the current standing Likud Central Committee to vote in favor of the change. The vote was meant to have taken place two weeks ago, but Judge Yehuda Zaft, who ruled against the postponement, hinted that he might invalidate the vote even if it passes, saying, “You can declare yourselves Likud Central Committee members for life and that it passes down to your children, but that doesn’t mean it counts.”

Where things stand right now, the Supreme Court has allowed the vote to take place, which means this is Netanyahu’s final chance to postpone elections. If he does not succeed, rumors are that he may even leave the Likud and form his own party, much like Ariel Sharon did when he left Likud in 2005 and formed Kadima.

If that happens, the political map in Israel will be inordinately confusing. With Yisrael Beteinu, Likud, Netanyahu’s new party, Kadima, Yair Lapid’s possible new party polling at 15 seats currently, Labor, Shas, Bayit Yehudi, National Union, United Torah Judaism, Shas, and the Arab parties, the next knesset may look even more fractured than the current one.