Besides Knesset members in the Likud who oppose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, MKs in the National Religious Party, Shas, National Union and United Torah Judaism are backing the move. If Netanyahu succeeds in forming and holding together a coalition, he will become Prime Minister and enable the current Knesset to continue in session until its mandate expires next November.
NFC reported that Netanyahu is trying to convince Shinui party leader Yosef (Tomy) Lapid to back his effort. Shinui has been the hardest hit in the polls, which predict that the secular party will receive only five mandates, one-third of its present strength, in the next election.
Aides to Netanyahu explained that if he can establish an alternative government, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party will become an opposition party and will lose the momentum which has swept recent polls at the expense of almost every other party except Labor.
In other election developments, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he will not run in the party's primaries, but will stay in the party. Aides said he might try to challenge Amir Peretz's leadership at a later date.
Barak called off a meeting with Peretz that had been scheduled for Saturday, aimed at settling a dispute between the two concerning Barak's role in the party. He has expressed fears that Peretz will turn Labor into a copy of the Am Echad faction, which Peretz led before merging it with Labor. The faction had only three MKs, one of whom defected, and was led on the strength of Peretz's standing as leader of the Histadrut national labor union.