Likud membership swells as recruitment campaign ends

50,000 new Likud members registered since Knesset elections; prior to drive, registered membership hovered around 90,000, down from 300,000 under Sharon.

Netanyahu Likud 311 (photo credit: AP)
Netanyahu Likud 311
(photo credit: AP)
A six-month-long mass registry campaign of Likud members concluded Friday, and although the ranks of registered Likud member swelled by 50% of their original size, the jury remained out regarding the final verdict on the party’s direction.
With elections for the party’s central committee and top positions sixteen months away, Friday marked the last day on which newly-registered party members will be allowed to participate in the 2012 poll. The last time elections were held for the 3,000 delegates who form the powerful central committee was in 2002, despite the fact that the party’s constitution originally mandated that such a vote be held once every four years. Netanyahu’s opponents on the right-wing of the Likud claimed that the prime minister had delayed the internal elections, and extended the deadline for the party registry in order to weaken their camp within the party.
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“He wanted, although he didn’t say it, to bring another mass of people to neutralize certain camps within the party,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud), who took credit for registering some 4,000 new Likud members in the national-religious camp, both in the West Bank as well as in communities in the center of the country. Danon said that while numerically, the number of “orange” Likud members maintained the status quo, he believed that they would actually cast more influence at the internal polls. “Ideological voters didn’t come because of organized pressure, but because they understand the importance of their vote, and we’ve seen from the past that their percentage of influence is more important,” he explained.
“In the last elections when there was trouble with the computers, it was the national- religious voters who were still waiting in line at 10 p.m., with their baby strollers, in order to cast their vote.”
MK Haim Katz (Likud) also was a top registrar, with an estimated 4,000-5,000 new and returning Likud members registered by him, mostly working through his center of power in workers’ councils, especially in the Israel Aeronautics Industry.
Local Likud infighting was responsible for the two other large groups of voters registered – in Rishon Lezion and in Ramat Gan, where there are currently ongoing political struggles on the municipal level. In Ramat Gan, MK Carmel Shama (Likud) struggled against current Mayor Moshe Revach in order to try and determine who would win the party’s nomination to run for mayor in the next municipal elections.
Shama, however, said that this was not the case. “There aren’t any great agreements within the Ramat Gan branch but it did not reach the level we saw in previous years. I am more in the background as someone who cares about the Ramat Gan branch, which is my home branch, and which is being threatened by a group of people.
“If you take the numbers that everyone claims that they registered, then we would have ended up with 400,000 new voters,” said Shama. “Ultimately, everything becomes clear, but there is a tendency to exaggerate.”
Shama said that he estimates that fewer than 2,000 were registered in Ramat Gan, while some 5,000 were registered in Rishon Lezion, another municipality in which internal contests dominate Likud politics.
Since the elections for the Knesset, an estimated 50,000 new Likud members were registered, with the numbers registered in the current six-month registration drive estimated at around a quarter of that number. Prior to the drive, registered membership in Likud hovered around 90,000, down from a peak 300,000 under the auspices of Ariel Sharon.