Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party launched what it believes will be Israel’s first real open primary at a festive event in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Former Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On had wanted primaries in her party in which every citizen could vote for its Knesset candidates, but her proposal was rejected by Meretz’s governing council.
Instead, Zehut will pioneer implementing the idea. Zehut members have already chosen 15 candidates. Sixty days before the election, an open primary will be held in which all Israeli citizens 18 and over will be eligible to vote online that day and rank them.
Feiglin unveiled the super-secure technological program that will be used to conduct the voting at Wednesday’s event at Tel Aviv’s Zionist Organization of America House. It will already be possible to register to vote Thursday and registration will be open through the voting day itself.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Feiglin said the inspiration for the primary system came from the United States, so holding it in the Zionist Organization of America House was appropriate.
“Even though our party has not been elected to the Knesset yet, by holding the first open primary, we are ensuring that ordinary Israeli citizens will have more power,” Feiglin said. “Zehut returns the power from the back rooms to the citizens themselves.”
Every voter will be given six points to distribute among the 15 candidates.
Feiglin said the system prevents the deal-making present in other parties.
The 15 candidates include two immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.
Zehut members living in the Diaspora have already chosen Uruguay-born Rabbi Ben Zion Spitz as their representative.
Hebron Jewish community spokesman and Land of Israel Network host Rabbi Yishai Fleisher, who was born in Haifa but raised in Wayne, New Jersey, was elected to be among the 15, but he has left the party.
Feiglin will be able to reserve slots for additional candidates. MKs from multiple parties have inquired, he said. He also revealed that a Meretz MK told him said she would vote in the primary in order to choose women candidates, because she wants there to be more female MKs.
Asked why Israel needs a Zehut Party, which means ‘identity’ in Hebrew, after last week’s passage of the Jewish Nation- State Law, Feiglin said, “We need to take our identity from what is written on a piece of paper into reality,” he said. “The struggle in Israel is not over territories, peace, the economy or even surrogacy. It is whether we are a Jewish state or a state of all its citizens. This is what divides our people.”
Feiglin said he supported the bill, “even though it’s Swiss cheese and doesn’t have anything in it, because it is still important to say we are a Jewish state, and the truth must be said and made part of the law.”
He said those who wanted the law to be more substantial could feel at home in Zehut.
“The entire issue of Zehut is content,” he said. “No one knows the differences between the existing parties on key issues. We have politics with no content, which creates corruption because it’s about ‘what’s in it for me.’ We can give content and fill the void.”