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Netanyahu Meets Likud Rebels in Effort to Squelch Opposition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the creation of a committee to probe claims of irregularities at last week’s Likud convention.

Netanyahu made the announcement Thursday night after marathon talks with Likud ministers and Knesset members failed to head off a crisis in the party over the convention’s decision to cancel party primaries.

He began the meetings Wednesday, immediately after returning from a trip to the United States and England.

While he was abroad, Likud rebels said they were seeking to take over the Likud Party and, perhaps, topple the Netanyahu government.

The rebels had denounced the decision to cancel party primaries in which the party’s rank and file could vote for the list of Likud Knesset candidates.

They said the decision to cancel the primaries was an attempt to protect Netanyahu from challenges within the party and to return the power for picking legislative candidates to the hands of the Likud Central Committee, which is stacked with Netanyahu loyalists.

Likud employed the primary system for the first time prior to the 1996 elections. Before that, the slate of candidates was drawn up by the central committee.

Among the complaints raised by the rebels about the convention was that Netanyahu’s right-hand man, Avigdor Lieberman, who is director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, had opponents of the initiative videotaped during the convention’s proceedings.

Though Netanyahu agreed to their demand to set up the investigating committee, it did not appear that he would meet their other demand — the firing of Lieberman.

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