Anglo Likud Central Committee member Gidon Ariel has taken it upon himself to defend democracy within his party, running against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the position of Likud Convention President on Sunday evening.
Ariel, a major figure in the Likud's Maale Adumim chapter, decided to challenge Netanyahu after a Likud spokeswoman announced that, in order to show a united front before the general election in September, presidency contenders Government Services Minister Michael Eitan and MK Danny Danon dropped out of the race.
The Likud Central Committee member submitted his candidacy less than an hour before the Sunday-afternoon deadline. Soon after, Danon and Eitan announced that they are still contenders for the position, and had never dropped out of the race.
The Likud Convention is a gathering of Likud Central Committee members in which the convention and committee's president is elected, as well as leaders of the party's other institutions and the date of a primary to choose its list for the next Knesset.
Ariel said that, while he knows his chances of defeating the prime minister and replacing current Likud Convention President Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon are slim, he is making a statement about the importance of democracy within the party.
"Until this week, Likud leaders understood that it makes sense for someone to run against the prime minister to head the Central Committee and Convention," he stated.
Ariel explained that Netanyahu, as chairman of the Likud, is the party's executive branch. Should the prime minister become Convention President, he will also lead the Likud's legislative arm and be the top candidate to run its judiciary.
"I am at a loss as to how we can be the leading, center-right democratic party [if that happens]," the Likud activist lamented. "If I want one person making all the decisions, I would me more comfortable in Shas or Yisrael Beytenu."
According to Ariel, "it is important to keep democratic tension in place, and our representatives should be people who believe in that."
Before Danon renewed his candidacy, Ariel said he would rather be able to vote for Danon than run himself. However, the Maale Adumim activist remained a contender even after hearing that Danon stayed in the race. Several others, including Eitan, remained on the list of candidates, despite reports that Netanyahu will run unchallenged.
Ariel, a member of the Likud Central Committee for the past 10 years, made aliya from New York 35 years ago, and is an entrepreneur working in Internet hasbara.
He became involved in the Likud after being inspired by Manhigut Yehudit leader Moshe Feigllin, because as an American, the concept of promoting ideals through larger political parties appealed to him, Ariel recounted.
However, Ariel says he is "an independent player," not a Feiglin activist.
"I have good connections with Feiglin and others in Judea and Samaria," he said, "but I am the same with Netanyahu and his staff."