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Likud Party Erupts in Brouhaha over Proposal to Cancel Primaries

Likud Party activists are up in arms over a proposal to change the way the party nominates candidates for the next Knesset elections.

A heated debate erupted when Avigdor Lieberman, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, floated the idea that the party call off its primaries for Knesset candidates and return to a narrower party forum — perhaps the party’s convention — for selecting candidates.

The proposal, which was believed to have emanated from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, did not extend to choosing the next candidate for prime minister, who would continue to be chosen via party primaries.

The suggestion was interpreted as an attempt by Netanyahu to achieve a tighter grip over his party and have some close associates, such as Lieberman, chosen as Knesset candidates.

Some senior activists charged that Netanyahu was seeking to establish authoritarian rule over the party.

After the brouhaha erupted, Netanyahu said he had not yet made up his mind about the proposal, adding that he would do so before the Likud convention scheduled for next month.

Opposition to any changes in party rules is led by Knesset member Ze’ev “Benny” Begin, who resigned as science minister earlier this year rather than approve the Israeli withdrawal in January from most of the West Bank town of Hebron.

Also opposing the suggestion is Knesset member Dan Meridor, who resigned as finance minister after running afoul of Netanyahu.

After he resigned, Meridor strongly indicated he would run against the prime minister in the next vote for the Likud leadership.

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