Likud party members, backed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plan to float a new bill targeting wealthy members expected to run in the party's leadership race, amid a power struggle over the next party chairman.
The fight has begun over the chairmanship of the Likud party, a position currently held by Netanyahu, with the most prominent candidate being lawmaker Nir Barkat.
Barkat, who is wealthy thanks to his entrepreneurial enterprises and high-tech investments, had also stood out in recent years because of the money he has showered on hired consultants, funding campaigns and investing in impressive rallies.
Another candidate for the Likud chairmanship, who many also have strong financial backing, is lawmaker Yuli Edelstein whose wife, Irena Nevzlin, is the daughter of the wealthy entrepreneur, Leonid Nevzlin.
A camp of veteran Likud Central Committee members is forming against Edelstein and Barkat, headed by Yisrael Katz. This political constellation, which is trying to restrict the funding advantages of the two wealthy Likud members in a primary campaign, is backed behind the scenes by Netanyahu himself, who is trying to thwart any attempt to replace him, no matter the candidate.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation was supposed to meet on Sunday to vote on a law proposed by Likud MK David Amsalem to limit funds raised by an individual candidate.
The vote would advance an amendment to the Party Funding Law to restrict candidates and their families from donating more than 100,000 shekels ($31,728) per year. This would include donations to fund surveys, employ campaign aids and organize rallies. The law would also require all elected officials to file a monthly report on amounts of donations received.
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The explanatory notes to the amendment state that it is meant to ensure equality and integrity and prevent candidates from buying their way to government – to make sure that the wealthy do not have an inherent advantage, and to prevent politicians' dependency on money.
“Maintaining balance and equality among elected officials and candidates is essential in the variegated Israeli democracy,” the bill states. “Sometimes a wealthy candidate’s campaign would not permit quality candidates who are not wealthy from being elected and representing the group from which they come. Therefore, restrictions must be placed on the use of private funds of elected officials and candidates to the Knesset to ensure that not only people with private wealth are represented in the Israeli democracy.”
Amsalem's amendment might find supporters in the coalition and within other parties that hold primaries – as well as among those who have bolted from Likud but would like to return to its ranks in the future.
And so Amsalem might find that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope is the amendment’s strongest supporter. All the more so because the amendment in question is very close to one proposed by former Likud MK – now of New Hope – Sharren Haskel.