Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara (C) .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thousands of Likud members are expected to come to Airport City near Ben-Gurion Airport Wednesday night for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's annual pre-Rosh Hashana toast for members of his party.
Netanyahu moved the event from Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel after his successful August 9 Likud rally, because Airport City's Avenue Hall can fit more than 5,000 people.
Coalition chairman David Bitan has led a team of party leaders and activists who have manned phones for three weeks urging Likud members to attend. He said turnout would easily surpass that of the last event, which he only had three days to organize.
Since that event, Likud officials have started a battle against the New Likudniks, a group of centrists who want Likud to become more moderate and return to values they say existed when Likud was led by then-prime minister Menachem Begin and are no longer prevalent in the party.
Netanyahu has come out in favor of attempts to stop them from joining Likud and is expected to address the issue in his speech at the toast. A spokesman for the New Likudniks said they would come to the toast after boycotting the pro-Netanyahu event three weeks ago.
"The prime minister will give a strong speech and there will be surprises," a source close to Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post.
The source said there would be dozens of buses to take Likud members from branches across the country to Airport City. The entire Likud faction is expected to attend, except ministers and MKs who are abroad.
Those given absentee passes incluce Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is abroad on a family vacation, and MK Oren Hazan, whose wife gave birth Sunday.