Likud Begins Re-Grouping

The Sharon-shorn Likud Central Committee will convene this evening at Exhibition Grounds in Tel Aviv to decide the party's schedule for the coming weeks until the elections.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:42

The top priority is to set a date - most likely December 19 - for the primaries, in which the party's chairman and Prime Ministerial candidate will be chosen. In the event that no candidate receives at least 40% of the vote, a run-off between the two top vote-getters will be held on Dec. 26.

Six Likud members have announced their candidacy for the party's top spot:
* Front-running former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who served as Finance Minister until this summer and is now a Knesset Member,
* MK Uzi Landau, fired by Ariel Sharon from his Public Security Minister post,
* Moshe Feiglin, head of the party's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction,
* Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom,
* Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, who is not a Knesset Member,
* Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz.

Army Radio reported today that Likud members are "unhappy" with Mofaz's attack yesterday on Netanyahu, saying it will help [Labor Party leader] Amir Peretz in the coming elections. Mofaz sharply attacked Netanyahu's financial policies, noting that Netanyahu had "never known a day of suffering in his life," and was one of those leaders who were "born with a silver spoon in his mouth."

Feiglin, speaking this morning, said, "For Mofaz to express himself that way against Netanyahu shows that the last thing that concerns him is the Likud."

Arutz-7 asked Mofaz's office how he plans to ward off attacks by the other parties in the coming election campaign that will be based on Mofaz's remarks. Arutz-7 further asked if his derogatory remarks about Netanyahu do not signify that in the event that Netanyahu wins the primaries, Mofaz plans to leave the Likud and possibly join Sharon's new party.

In response, Mofaz's assistant spokesperson issued the following response: "Minister Mofaz will remain in the Likud under all circumstances, and he intends to win the primaries and lead the Likud to victory."

Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) says that the mutual attacks among the party's candidates will calm down in a couple of days.

At tonight's convention, the only speaker will be Acting Likud Chairman Tzachi HaNegbi [pictured above] The candidates will sign a "Fair Campaign" charter, formulated by Minister Danny Naveh.

Within the Likud, it is feared that some Sharon-sympathizers plan to remain in the party as "spies" or "Trojan horses." Knesset candidate Danny Danon, Chairman of the party's Betar Movement, is operating a special "informant" hotline at which party members can report on such occurrences. Forty reports of suspected "defectors" have been received thus far.

"Our goal is to prevent Sharon activists within the Likud to benefit from both worlds," Danon said. "There is only a small minority like that. We will transfer the names to the party secretariat, wait for their response, and if they don't defend themselves, we'll make sure to distance them from the Likud."

Sharon's new party, now named Kadima (Forward) after the name National Responsibility was tried and scrapped, was officially registered with the Parties Registrar today.