Elections set for March 28
Attorney General Mazuz approves election date; according to compromise agreement President Katsav permitted to issue order for Knesset’s dispersal by December 8; should the order be issued by this time, Prime Minister Sharon will be able to appoint ministers without Knesset’s approval
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz approved Tuesday a compromise agreement according to which the general elections will be held on March 28, 2006.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be permitted to appoint new ministers until the elections are held, according the agreement.
The dispute centered on to main issues: Sharon wanted the elections to be held as soon as possible to take advantage of the public’s support; the Knesset demanded the elections be held on March 28. But the prime minister came on top on the second issue: He will be permitted to appoint ministers without the Knesset’s approval.
President Moshe Katsav gave his approval to the compromise agreement; Attorney General Menachem Mazuz followed suite following a consultation with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee Chairman Michael Eitan.
The Knesset will hold a vote on Wednesday on dissolving the Knesset, based the compromise deal for an elections date.
The bill will state: "The 16th Knesset will be dissolved before the end of its term, elections to the 17th Knesset will be held on March 28, this law will come into effect on December 9, 2005."
President Katsav said, “The prime minister expressed fears that he would be left with only five ministers, and, in my opinion, you cannot run the country properly with such a limitation.”
The president explained that the government fears that the bill calling for the Knesset’s dispersal will force it to engage in political negotiations regarding the need to appoint new ministers; the Knesset, in turn, fears that the government will be able to appoint new ministers at will.
The agreement states that Katsav will be permitted to issue an order for the Knesset’s dispersal by December 8; should the order be issued by this time, the Knesset Dispersal Law will expire, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be able to appoint ministers without the Knesset’s approval.
Meretz-Yahad MK Zahava Gal-On said in response to the agreement, “I expect Sharon to appoint only ministers who are vital to running the country, and not those who are vital to his new government.”
'National Responsibility' after all
In the meantime, Sharon's aides said that after examining various possible names for the new party, including the name "Kadima" (forward), the party will probably be called National Responsibility, after the public responded positively to the name.
Earlier, Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit submitted to the Knesset Committee chairman an official split document on behalf of the 14 new faction members and an announcement on the establishment of a separate faction called National Responsibility. The document stated that the name might still change, but that the faction will remain.
Sheetrit said that "I am doing this with deep sadness. The political framework is not the important thing, but rather setting an agenda and bringing peace with the desire to seriously deal with economic and social issues in Israel."
Aides to Sharon have offered a place in his new party to Zaka head Yehuda Meshi Zahav.
Meshi Zahav told Ynet: "Sharon's people checked about about an agreement in principle (for joining the party) with me. I'll seek people's opinions and will soon give an answer. I'm good with everyone, and politics is politics."
Likud primaries to be held December 19
On Tuesday afternoon, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, the Likud's temporary chairman, gathered the candidates for the party's chairmanship and their representatives. Four of the candidates arrived: Benjamin Netanyahu, Uzi Landau, Yisrael Katz and Moshe Feiglin.
Following a discussion, the participants reached an agreement to hold the party's chairmanship elections on December 19. A second round, if needed, will be held on December 22, while the primaries for the Knesset seats will be held on January 3.
The Likud's short and intensive election campaign has now embarked with six candidates on the starting line.
Earlier Tuesday, MK David Tal announced that he was joining Sharon's new party. Sharon met with Tal, a former Shas MK, in the afternoon and asked him to join his party. Tal accepted the offer, saying that he accepts all of the party's social and political principles.
After the meeting, Sharon said he saw Tal's joining the party with great importance, as he will constitute an important level in the new party's social and religious activity.
MK Joseph Partizky told Ynet Tuesday that he does not reject the possibility of joining Sharon's new party if he is asked to join.
Partizky, who heads a one-man faction in the Knesset, was dismissed from Shinui after an audiotape was published in which he is heard planning moves to allegedly frame MK Avraham Poraz.
Attila Somfalvi, Ronny Sofer contributed to the report