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Netanyahu takes on hardliners in party vote

world Updated: Apr 29, 2010 19:15 IST

AFP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced off against hardliners in his own party on Thursday in what his opponents said was a bid to neutralise internal opposition as momentum builds for renewed peace talks with the Palestinians.

The right-wing Likud party's ruling central committee is overdue for its members to face reselection and a more hawkish makeup could tie Netanyahu's hands in any future US-brokered peace negotiations.

Netanyahu has convened the 2,500-strong committee to vote on his request to amend the party constitution so that the national convention, where reselection takes place, is delayed until the end of next year.

Although the party leader and candidates for Parliament are chosen by the full party membership in primaries, the central committee has a key role in approving the party platform. Its backing, or lack of it, can make or break political careers.

Commentators said Netanyahu will face an uphill battle to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to win Thursday's constitutional vote, and the Prime Minister sought to lower expectations ahead of the ballot.

"Achieving such a majority is an almost impossible mission. It will be very, very difficult," he said.

Netanyahu said he wanted the delay because he is too busy dealing with attempts to revive talks with the Palestinians, lobbying for tougher international sanctions against Iran and keeping a close eye on the buildup of rockets and missiles by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

"The last thing we need to do now is get into internal politicking within the Likud," he told a party rally on Tuesday. "We must not take our minds off the great challenges standing before the state of Israel."

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