Skip to comments.Top Labor politician defects to Sharon's new party
Posted on 11/24/2005 4:46:48 AM PST by Crackingham
A prominent politician from the moderate Labor Party joined Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party Wednesday, the first such defection, adding impetus to a movement that could break a decades-long electoral stalemate over peace policies. The move by Cabinet minister without portfolio Haim Ramon came hours after President Moshe Katsav signed a decree for the dissolution of Parliament, paving the way for a general election on March 28.
For procedural reasons, the order will only take effect on December 8. Sharon will stay on as prime minister until elections and should have a free hand to change his Cabinet before then.
Turning away from the Labor Party, Ramon said he decided on his move after representing the dovish party for 23 years in Parliament because "there must be a party in the center which reflects the views of the majority of Israelis."
Sharon's former colleagues in Likud were meanwhile gearing up for their own leadership primary on December 19 with a bout of mud-slinging.
Former Premier Benjamin Netanyahu is the clear favorite but one of his challengers, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, lambasted him for disregarding the impoverished victims of his right-wing policies when he was finance minister.
"I don't think he has ever suffered from want in his entire life, and so the matter of poverty and compassion is far from his heart and also from his policy," Mofaz told army radio.
Sharon's hopes to attract Labor Vice Premier Shimon Peres, disgruntled and embarrassed after Peretz defeated him for Labor leader, dimmed when Israeli media reported Peres would remain with Labor. But his spokesman, Yoram Dori, said Peres "will consider what is best for the state of Israel and peace," leaving the door open for his defection.
Sharon's aides said he would campaign on the U.S.-backed "road map" plan, which calls for Palestinian statehood. However, they insisted that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must first dismantle militant groups.
Sharon's new party was also boosted Tuesday when the independent MP David Tal agreed to sign up. Tal formerly represented the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party.
The Yediot Ahronot newspaper said that Avi Dichter, who retired last year as head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, had agreed to join up but a "cooling off" period precluded him from making an announcement until February.
Dichter's recruitment would help Sharon fend off any accusations that he has "gone soft" by pulling troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip.
Keep in mind that the "daily star" is a lebanese paper.