No shortage of voters – or opinions – outside Likud’s HQ

Central committee members flock to cast ballots on constitutional amendment.

feiglin shouts 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
feiglin shouts 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem headquarters of the Likud Party was bustling with activity on Thursday afternoon, as central committee members came to cast their votes on a proposed amendment to the party’s constitution that would push off internal elections for up to three years following general elections.
In addition to the handful of “civilian” committee members walking in and out of the old stone building on the capital’s Mordechai Eliash street – members of the press were barred from entering – Likud MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Bennie Begin were also seen entering the building, arriving within minutes of each other to cast their votes and exchange niceties with the party members milling around outside.
Gidon Ariel, a Likud central committee delegate from Ma’aleh Adumim who was on hand for the ballot-casting, told The Jerusalem Post that about 70 of the Jerusalem area’s roughly 150 committee members had already shown up to cast their votes by mid-afternoon, and that more were expected to arrive after they finished work in the evening.
While that number reflected the generally high turnout reported across the country – expected to benefit Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has encouraged committee members over the past several days to vote in favor of the change – Ariel said he wasn’t sure what the future would bring if internal elections weren’t held sometime soon.
“I don’t know what Netanyahu is going to do over the next two years without [internal] elections,” he said. “The central committee would be silenced over that period, and there are a number of issues that need to be addressed.”
Among those issues, Ariel said, was the recently reported de-facto construction freeze in east Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the larger official freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria.
“The construction freeze in Judea and Samaria was something that was supposed to be debated by the central committee, but has been repeatedly postponed,” he said.
Ariel added that “Netanyahu’s people are doing what Netanyahu wants and [rival Moshe] Feiglin’s people are doing what Feiglin wants. Everybody’s got different interests.”
For his part, Ariel said, “the main thing is the democratic aspect.” He added that he had been “astounded” when there wasn’t a reelection of all Likud institutions immediately after the Kadima split in 2005.
“I want the central committee to be active and to be able to impact policy,” he continued. “And it’s bothersome that the prime minister doesn’t recognize this.”
Others, however, said they had set up shop outside the headquarters to support the prime minister and guard the party against “foreign elements coming in from outside.”
“Like Feiglin,” clarified central committee member Yehuda Gabai as he sat in a chair under the modest Likud sign posted outside the building.
“We’re loyal soldiers of Bibi,” he said, “and we support him no matter what.”
Asked whether that support would be maintained if Netanyahu made concessions in Jerusalem, Gabai quickly added, “That would never happen – we won’t let him do it.”
He continued, “That’s not what we’re worried about. We’re here to keep a look out for the ‘Feiglinim’ [Feiglin supporters].”
“But most of the people who have come in today were pro-Bibi,” added Moti Naftali, who stood next to Gabai outside.
“It’s really not so bad,” Naftali continued. “We’re both veteranLikudniks, we’re seasoned, and I can recall far worse battles that werefought than what we have today.”
He recounted that “when I first started with the Likud, it was the timeof [former prime minister Menachem] Begin, and we were constantlyfighting with the Mapai people. Back then, if Mapai members knew whoyou were, if they knew you were against them, you couldn’t get a job –they controlled the workforce.”
Today, he said, “it’s less difficult. But then again, Feiglin couldmake headway before the next [general] elections. You never really knowwhat’s going to happen, especially in politics.”