A Likud central committee meeting that was called to reinforce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s control over the party ended up sending the opposite message on Thursday night, after only some 200 of the 3,000 members came.Netanyahu did not come to the meeting, even though the party spent a massive amount on the security needed for an event with the prime minister. Reporters were banned from entering. “It was very embarrassing that the prime minister did not even bother coming,” a veteran central committee member who attended told The Jerusalem Post. “He clearly didn’t want to embarrass himself. There were dozens of empty chairs and most MKs weren’t there. I don’t know why they thought more of us would come. We knew the event didn’t matter, and we aren’t stupid.”The top Likud figures who chose not to come included Gideon Sa’ar, Yuli Edelstein, Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan.“It was like going to a sad party,” an MK who was there told the Post. “It was delusional. It was a political mistake that showed cracks in our leadership.”Only three speakers addressed the short meeting: central committee chairman Haim Katz, acting Communications Minister David Amsalem, and central committee member Yaakov Ben Saadon, who in his speech called Netanyahu “a good prime minister but a bad party chairman.”Netanyahu’s spokesman Yonatan Urich claimed that 500 central committee members attended, but several sources inside said that was far from the truth. One attendee said there were only 100, and no one other than Urich said there were the 300 members needed for a quorum.The proposal that passed said that Netanyahu is Likud’s candidate for prime minister for the entire term of the 22nd Knesset, which was sworn in to a four-year term last week, and that the Likud will only join a government in which Netanyahu will be prime minister – whether for the entire term or part of it in a rotation agreement.Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman mocked the event, telling Channel 12 that it was “like a meeting of the Communist party under [Leonid] Brezhnev.”Netanyahu initiated the meeting after considering holding a leadership race in Likud to show Blue and White that there would not be an alternative candidate from the party. He decided not to hold the race after Sa’ar announced he would run against him.Likud MK Nir Barkat announced on Thursday that he will run for Likud leader after Netanyahu leaves the post. In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Barkat joined the contest that already officially includes Sa’ar and is expected to include many candidates.“I will defeat Gideon Sa’ar,” Barkat said.At a well-attended event for Likud supporters last week, Barkat said he was not in a hurry to advance politically, and unveiled an autobiography called Marathon Runner.