Likud holds heated hear­ing on mem­bers at anti-Ne­tanyahu ral­lies

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By LAHAV HARKOV

Shout­ing and bang­ing on ta­bles abounded dur­ing a hear­ing in the Likud’s in­ter­nal court Thurs­day on 14 party mem­bers who took part in the weekly demon­stra­tions call­ing for Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to be in­dicted on cor­rup­tion charges.

Coali­tion chair­man David Bi­tan, Likud le­gal ad­viser Avi Halevy and con­cerned party mem­bers pe­ti­tioned against the pro­test­ers, many of whom are part of the “New Likud­niks” group seek­ing to re­cruit mem­bers to the party to sup­port mod­er­ate can­di­dates in its pri­maries. They sought to re­voke the pro­test­ers’ Likud mem­ber­ship; a rul­ing is ex­pected in late Oc­to­ber.

The hear­ing was closed to press, but shout­ing could be heard from out­side the room.

The pro­ceed­ings grew es­pe­cially heated dur­ing an ar­gu­ment be­tween Bi­tan and MK Ye­hu­dah Glick, who took the side of the pro­test­ers.

“We’re go­ing to kick them out be­cause they want the party to be clean of cor­rup­tion? That is ab­surd,” Glick said, adding that he be­lieves Ne­tanyahu is in­no­cent and hopes he is proven to be soon.

“I am here to­day to rep­re­sent Voltaire... who said, ‘I dis­ap­prove of what you say, but I will de­fend to the death your right to say it,’” Glick said, re­peat­ing a quote that is com­monly mis­at­tributed to the French philoso­pher.

“That’s not in the party,” Bi­tan re­sponded.

Glick com­pared Bi­tan to King Louis XIV: “We have Bi­tan the 14th – the party is me! Who­ever doesn’t agree with him can’t be in the Likud. I am very afraid of what is hap­pen­ing in the Likud.”

Bi­tan said the demon­stra­tions on Satur­day night are backed by La­bor and Meretz; Halevy ar­gued that at­tend­ing the ral­lies vi­o­lates the Likud’s con­sti­tu­tion, which states that some­one may be re­moved from the party if he or she col­lab­o­rates with an­other party to hurt the Likud. The at­tor­ney pointed to the at­ten­dance of left-wing politi­cians at the demon­stra­tions, and the fact that they were an ini­tia­tive of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter’s Res­i­dence care­taker Meni Naf­tali, who sued Ne­tanyahu.

“A Likud mem­ber who at­tends a demon­stra­tion pres­sur­ing the at­tor­ney-gen­eral to in­dict the prime min­is­ter, at which ban­ners were held stat­ing ‘Ne­tanyahu is guilty un­til proven in­no­cent,’ not only vi­o­lates the Likud con­sti­tu­tion but the ba­sic rules of fair­ness and jus­tice,” Halevy said. “A Likud mem­ber who par­tic­i­pated in this demon­stra­tion can­not con­tinue be­ing a Likud mem­ber.”

Although the hear­ing was not about the New Likud­niks as a group, Bi­tan at­tacked them as il­le­git­i­mate.

“The prob­lem is their po­ten­tial,” he said. “They can bring peo­ple from the Joint List, La­bor or Yesh Atid and bring in 60,000 peo­ple and then there’s no party. So, be­cause we’re demo­cratic we won’t have a party left? Their ba­sis for join­ing and their po­ten­tial is problematic, and I ask the court to make a de­ci­sion about this mat­ter.”

The New Likud­niks, in­clud­ing the group’s leader Lior Meiri, ar­gued that at­tend­ing the demon­stra­tions is part of their right to free speech.

A source on the de­fen­dants’ side ar­gued, fol­low­ing the hear­ing, that the ral­lies are not left­wing, they are anti-cor­rup­tion, and were not or­ga­nized by a com­pet­ing party. He also said that he “de­spises” Naf­tali and op­posed ef­forts by Bi­tan to say that they were one group.

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