Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to abandon the Likud and form a new alliance prompted reactions from across the political specturm.
Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz said “the manner in which the news of Sharon’s decision to quit Likud was delivered is inappropriate. Likud was there before Sharon and will remain after him.”
“I regret his decision to quit. Likud will organize itself and elect a leader as soon as possible. I see myself as a candidate, as I said earlier. Unfortunately, no one knows the motives and no one was consulted,” Katz said.
Likud MK Ayoob Kara said the Likud is a “national movement with a glorious past, present, and future. From this moment on, the Likud will only get stronger…”
Meanwhile Shinui leader and opposition chairman Yosef (Tommy Lapid) said “Sharon quit the Likud for personal reasons, but he will not help the middle class, won’t fight religious coercion, and won’t act against corruption. Only Shinui will do that.”
Earlier, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz dismissed rumors that he would join Prime Minister Sharon in forming a new alliance, saying that he intends to stay in Likud.
“I am staying in Likud and I call on the prime minister to stay in Likud, because only a united Likud will win the elections,” Mofaz said Sunday, before reports surfaced that Sharon has indeed decided to leave the ruling party.
Finance Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear, however, that he intends to follow Sharon in any path he chooses.
“It’s obvious I’ll go with Sharon,” Olmert said.
According to rumors, Sharon apparently approached high ranking Labor members as well, in a bid to persuade them to join him in his new party. The names of Minister Shalom Simhon, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Barak's close associate, Architect Orna Angel, were mentioned in this regard.
In a conversation with a Ynet reporter, Simhon denied that he has any intentions of withdrawing from the Labor party, while Angel said the PM's Office did hold negotiations with her.
Sources at Barak's office stated that the former PM was not approached by Sharon, and that he has full intention of running in the Labor primaries.
Sharon is expected to make his plans clear during a Likud faction meeting scheduled to convene Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, the Meretz-Yachad party announced it will withdraw the no-confidence motion against the government it intended to submit Monday. The announcement followed a meeting with Labor party leader Amir Peretz, in which he asked Meretz to withdraw the motion and thus enable Labor to raise the proposal to dissolve parliament on Monday.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu urged Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit to stay in the Likud party even if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decides to leave.
“I don’t know what Sharon will decide, but I am staying in Likud. We need to reach a decision fast, and back a united party policy,” Netanyahu said.
Ilan Marciano and Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report