UPDATE: About 100 Likud Central Committee members have been refused entrance into the hall where the vote on the next President of the Likud convention is to be held. Police say the the hall is too small for the number of committee members who are entitled to come in and vote.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face off against veteran Likud Central Committee member Gideon Ariel for the position of President of the Likud Convention (the pre-central committee institution). The Likud Convention will determine how Likud MKs will be re-elected as well as make various changes in the Likud constitution. The vote is expected sometime tonight Israel time and only Likud Central Committee members will be able to cast a ballot.
Netanyahu’s previous challengers, Minister Michael Eitan and MK Danny Danon, have indicated earlier today that they would drop out, paving the way for a veteran Central Committee member to submit his candidacy. Ariel’s candidacy can be seen as the Likud Central Committee members attempt to keep the power with the Likud and challenge some of the Prime Minister’s policies with which they might not agree.
Knesset insider Jeremy Saltan told JewishPress.com that Ariel, who was backing Danon, is relying mainly on the support of the Danon camp, however, he has confirmed contacts with Michael Eitan’s people. Jewish Leadership Moshe Feiglin’s sizable camp is leaning heavily towards endorsing Ariel as well.
Saltan said, “It would seem that if Ariel can maintain the Danon camp support and add Eitan’s camp he actually has a decent shot at defeating the Prime Minister. There are many veteran Likud Central Committee members who are not happy with Netanyahu and don’t want him to block their amendments to the party constitution”.
The Jewish Press sat down with Gidon Ariel in an exclusive interview where he discussed his background and candidacy.
“I made aliyah from New York in High School and I have always had a strong commitment for the democratic tradition and values both the United States and Israel were founded on. That is the reason I joined the Likud because I am a believer in a two-party system. I am proud that I have become a key player in the political establishment in Israel after having signed hundreds and hundreds of Israeli citizens up for the Likud. I am a leader in the Likud branch of Ma’leh Adumim and I recently ran a slate that finished in first place in the internal Likud primaries”.
“The Likud convention is a complex body that is responsible for amending the Likud constitution within 90 days of it convening. There have already been a lot of motions floated and I am confident that with the 11-man presidium that will be elected with me, we will be able to empower the members of the central committee, the Likud itself and ultimately the state of Israel. We will work together hand and hand with the Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu to assure a party that is clean, democratic and strong for Israel.”
“I consulted with a great number of my friends from all of the Likud’s camps and all wished me luck in my bid and respected my decision to run. Many grassroots leaders and activists have promised me their support.”
“I am disappointed to hear that Danny Danon is withdrawing his candidacy and it would seem that Danon’s move will be very difficult to explain to key central committee members such as myself. However, I will gladly drop out if he stays in the race”.
“I think Netanyahu and his advisers might attempt to politically maneuver my candidacy out, but it is possible that Netanyahu will express his gratitude to me for having a democratic process in our democratic party. My chances are 100% that I will protect the honor of the Likud as the countries only center-right leadership democratic leadership party”.