Netanyahu Looking to Weaken Settlers' Influence in Likud

New proposal to be submitted to party's constitution committee would increase number of delegates in places other than the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to reduce the power of West Bank settlers in the Likud's convention and central committee by increasing the number of delegates from other locales while not increasing the number of delegates from the settlements.

Netanyahu's proposal on the matter will be submitted to the Likud's constitution committee on Wednesday, in advance of elections for the new party convention that will convene in January. If the committee approves the proposal, it will be sent to the full central committee for a vote in another two weeks. The central committee must approve it by a two-thirds majority.

Livnat and Netanyahu Flash 90
Flash 90

Currently, convention delegates are divvied up among different parts of the country based on how many residents of each region voted Likud in the last election. However, the formula varies according to the size of the community: Cities, for instance, are awarded one delegate for every 300 voters, whereas West Bank settlements are awarded one delegate for every 50 voters.

This differential was originally intended as a kind of affirmative action, to encourage settlers to vote Likud. But in the last election, the number of settlers voting Likud rose sharply, with the result that their representation in the convention will also rise sharply. If the current key were maintained, settlers would have 350 convention delegates, compared to 1,535 for the big cities.

Under Netanyahu's proposal, however, the formula used for cities and towns would be increased such that the number of delegates they receive would rise by about one-third, while the formula for the settlements would remain unchanged.

Netanyahu is also proposing that deputy mayors and members of village secretariats be added as delegates, and that the number of "founding members" of the convention - people over 60 who have been members of Likud for over 30 years - be increased from 190 to 250.

If all these changes are approved, the number of urban delegates is expected to rise to over 2,000, while the number of settler delegates would stay at 350. This increase, combined with the extra deputy mayors, secretariat members and founding members, would expand the convention to some 3,500 delegates, up from between 2,500 and 2,850 today.

Since convention members usually stay on as members of the new central committee, reducing the settlers' power in the convention would automatically reduce their power in the central committee as well.

The Likud Knesset faction discussed changing the composition of the convention a few weeks ago, and again at the beginning of this week. Likud sources said most of the party's MKs support Netanyahu's proposals, as they don't want to cope with a central committee whose views are to the right of most Likud members. Moreover, they said, the current formula for allocating seats is unreasonable and discriminates against urban voters.

Netanyahu decided to increase the size of the convention rather than simply reducing the number of settler delegates because many settlers have already started campaigning for the 350 slots currently open to them, and he didn't want to hurt these individuals.

While the Likud Central Committee doesn't choose the party's Knesset slate, it does decide other important issues, like the date of the primaries and the structure of the Knesset slate - which slots should be reserved for women or minorities, which should be chosen regionally rather than nationally, and so forth.

Likud director general Gadi Arieli said the request for a change in the formula originally came from urban delegates, who complained that they were underrepresented. After looking into the issue, Netanyahu concluded that their complaint was justified.

"It's important to note that this will correct an injustice," Arieli said, as the new formula "will more faithfully reflect the composition of the party's membership."

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: נתניהו פועל להקטין כוחם של הקיצונים בליכוד