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27 Kislev 5766 - December 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Politica: Keeping Feiglin Out is Worth Five Mandates

by E. Rauchberger

The first task the new-old Likud chairman, Binyamin Netanyahu, will undertake this month will be to try to drive Moshe Feiglin and his supporters out of the Likud, or at least prevent him from vying for a spot on the Likud Knesset list.

A resident of Samaria, Feiglin does not intend to vie for the spot of Yesha representative on the Likud Knesset list. Yesha representatives typically wind up way down in 25th or 30th place and Feiglin knows this is not a realistic spot. Instead Feiglin wants to vie for the main spots—and Netanyahu is worried he might succeed.

Truth be told, Feiglin was a part of the Likud while Sharon was party chairman and he came in 3rd place in the primaries. He was also running in 38th place on the Knesset list before the last elections and had the High Court not banned his candidacy based on his criminal record Feiglin would now be serving as an MK in the outgoing Knesset.

Today the High Court cannot keep him out of the running since the 7-year statute of limitations has already expired. Now it is the task of the Likud and its new chairman to keep him out.

Feiglin represents a threat to the Likud not because of his views, personality or political power, but because of the Disengagement. Ever since Sharon disengaged from the Likud along with another 16 Disengagement supporters, a stigma has been attached to any and all Disengagement proponents, as if the Feiglinites in the Likud had influenced them, for the Feiglinites are threatening to back for the next Knesset list only those who oppose the Disengagement.

Feiglin, dismissed by the Likud as an extremist, was pushed to center stage by the Disengagement proponents' strategic advisors in order to denigrate opponents. Those who remained in the party—e.g. Dani Naveh, Gideon Saar, Michael Eitan— were branded extremists and the public bought this ploy, as evidenced in the polls.

Netanyahu and all ranking Likud figures are well aware Feiglin is worth at least five mandates if they manage to oust Feiglin from the party or at least keep him from vying for a spot on the Knesset list. And five mandates is nothing to sneeze at, especially when the only price to pay is isolating Feiglin.

Netanyahu's problem is that he heads the Likud rather than Kadima, where moving people from one place to another or adding or removing people from the list is no problem. The Kadima party has no institutions, no constitution, no nothing — just a father and his son who have the final say. Even high-ranking figures like Ehud Olmert, Tzippi Livni or Shaul Mofaz are merely foot soldiers in the big game.

On the other hand, the Likud Constitution endows Feiglin with the right to vie for election and nothing can change that. Not the party chairman and not even the Likud Central Committee—if it unites in an effort to ban Feiglin from vying for the Knesset list.

The day after Netanyahu's victory in the primaries the new party chairman met with his primary opponent, Silvan Shalom, to join hands in rehabilitating the Likud Party as the election campaign gets underway.

One of the central, unreported issues at their meeting was how to overcome the Feiglin problem and control the damage he causes. Netanyahu has a few options to choose from, but none of them are perfect. In his meeting with the Likud Elections Board Chairman Attorney Tzvi Cohen a proposal was raised to amend the Likud Constitution to prohibit the election of any candidate who was ever convicted of a criminal offense and received a sentence of at least three months imprisonment. Feiglin was sentenced to six months.

Netanyahu has several other possible strategies at his disposal, but even if nothing pans out his efforts to oust Feiglin will at least convey a message the Likud is not as right wing as Kadima would have the public believe.

A Question of Age

The days when a prime minister could conceal his fragile health are long gone. While Menachem Begin spent half of the election campaign in the hospital and both Golda Meir and Levy Eshkol were elected while suffering from mild illnesses, today such health problems cannot be kept hidden.

Sharon and his staffers will invariably try to distract public opinion from the mild stroke the PM suffered recently and have already shifted the issue to a discussion of what kind of a diet Sharon should maintain. After all, a person's diet is hardly a reason not to vote for him.

The doctors at Hadassah said the chances Sharon will suffer no recurrences are excellent, but Prof. Mordechai Ravid notes that in 30 percent of such cases a stroke recurs within one year.

Leading Kadima figures like Ehud Olmert, Tzippi Livni and Meir Shetreet know that nothing further has to happen to Sharon, choliloh. All it would take would be for a few rumors to start circulating—rumors that Sharon is not feeling so well, is not looking his best, dropped in at the hospital for some tests—for voters to think twice before voting for Kadima.

At the age of 78 Sharon is already the country's oldest prime minister in office. Who can guarantee the public he can continue to handle such a tough job into his 80s? And who can guarantee voters they won't wind up getting stuck with Olmert of Shimon Peres?

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