Likud holds elections today for 14 branch heads

Most of the races for branch heads decided long ago in political deals; race divides Ra’anana’s Anglo voters.

Likud primary polling place 390 (photo credit: Ben Spier/screenshot)
Likud primary polling place 390
(photo credit: Ben Spier/screenshot)
The Likud is going to elections on Thursday – not for the party leadership or the Knesset but for branch heads in 14 cities and regional councils.
Most of the races for branch heads were decided long ago in political deals. But there are contests taking place Thursday in Afula, Beersheba, Ganei Tikva, Karnei Shomron, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Ekron, Ma’aleh Adumim, the Binyamin region, Merom Galil, Mevaseret Zion, Migdal Ha’emek, Nazareth, Ra’anana and the Shomron region.
The elections will determine who will run the party in the cities for the foreseeable future.
In cities controlled by the Likud, Thursday’s elections could decide their next mayor and council members.
One race shaping up to be especially interesting is in Ra’anana, where the Likud branch has been controlled for decades by colorful deputy mayor Uzi Cohen and since his 2008 death by his brother Ilan. The race pits Ilan Cohen and the branch’s old guard against tax adviser Rachel Skat and party newcomers in a contest that will determine the Likud’s face in the city.
The race has divided immigrants from English-speaking countries, who make up a large percentage of the city’s residents and a smaller percentage of its Likud central committee members.
Sonia Graham, who made aliya from London 17 years ago, is a veteran central committee member who supports Cohen.
“I have supported him for a long time, and I believe in loyalty,” Graham said. “This race is important because this will determine who will be running the city, and it is also a matter of showing necessary respect for people.”
Skat is supported by Aaron Lerner, who was born in Washington, DC, made aliya in 1982, and was elected to the central committee six months ago after years running Independent Media Review Analysis, a website on developments in Israeli-Arab relations.
“The race is interesting because in Ra’anana people are running and could beat the local machine that ran the party here for many years,” Lerner said. “It is indicative that at the end of the day, the democratic process is alive and well, both in Ra’anana and the Likud.”
Dr. Chaim Shine, who teaches philosophy of law at Shaarei Mishpat and Netanya Academic colleges, said he backs Skat, because he believes she will do more to ensure that the Likud will remain loyal to the land of Israel and because he believes change is needed in the city.
“A new force has risen in Ra’anana,” he said. “It is a force of values that could change the power structure in Ra’anana. It is a good sign for Israel that values-based politics exists and not just political hackery. You have to work to change society and we have a good chance to do it.”
Shine, who is a native Israeli, praised the involvement of immigrants from English speaking countries in Israeli politics.
“I know that at least the Anglos will respect the results of the race,” Shine said.