Shalom, Running for Likud Chief, Blames "Rebels," Not Sharon

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is running second to Binyamin Netanyahu in the race for Likud leader - but is refraining from attacking their common "enemy," Ariel Sharon.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:33

Shalom's strategy appears to be to sharply criticize Netanyahu, while going easy on Sharon. Asked about this today, Shalom's press advisor Ilan told Arutz-7 that Shalom's policy is not to attack people, but rather to speak to the issues.

However, Shalom in fact mentioned Netanyahu's name more than once in an interview this week with INN Arutz-7 TV. "Binyamin Netanyahu lowered the social flag to half-mast," Shalom said, and on another issue added, "The question is who can stop the erosion [within the Likud] towards Sharon and Peretz. There is no doubt that Bibi [Netanyahu] cannot. People are moving towards Sharon and Peretz because of Netanyahu. Only I can stop this..."

However, regarding Ariel Sharon, Shalom is stepping lightly. IMRA reports that when Shalom was asked "to comment on the Newsweek report that Sharon plans to unilaterally withdraw from half of Judea and Samaria so that a Palestinian state could be formed in the vacuum and then divide Jerusalem in a final negotiated settlement, Shalom would only say that there are former Labor Party members now inside his Kadima Party who present a problem."

Shalom's press advisor claimed that Shalom had been more forceful against Sharon regarding his Jerusalem stance on last night's Channel Ten London/Kirschenbaum program.

In the INN-TV interview, Gabi Newman asked Minister Shalom, "What's your attitude towards Sharon? Many blame him for the Likud's poor state now." Shalom responded just that Sharon had "made a mistake," and blamed the Likud's anti-expulsion camp.

"There's no doubt that Sharon made a major mistake by leaving," Shalom said. "I even once told him that technically, he won't be able to establish the government, because the right-wing and religious will recommend the Likud candidate [to the President], and the left and Arabs will recommend Amir Peretz; who will recommend Sharon? But beyond that, I think that the whole way the Likud worked was wrong. [I tried very hard] to prevent the split. Many in the Likud simply didn't want to see - there were elements who tried to get the NRP and Ministers Landau and Netanyahu and others to quit the government, and this caused Labor to join.... I very much supported the Livny compromise [which prevented the anti-disengagement ministers from voting against the disengagement]..."

Quite contrarily, columnist Haggai Segal wrote in this week's B'Sheva newspaper, published today, that Shalom once told him the opposite. Shalom said that during the deliberations over the Livny compromise, "I proposed to Netanyahu and [Minister Limor] Livnat that we should all [reject the Livny compromise and] resign that night, but they didn't want to."

Asked whether Minister Shalom blames Sharon or the anti-expulsion MKs for the split in the Likud, Shalom's press advisor said, "The extreme elements in the Likud. They refused to accept Sharon's desire to appoint two [pro-disengagement] ministers to the Cabinet, and this caused the split."

A-7: "The popular perception is that Sharon left not because of the ministers, but because of the disengagement and the opposition it aroused in the Likud."

Press Advisor: "Are you a reporter or an analyst?"

A-7: "Even Ehud Olmert, Sharon's #2 man in the Likud, just said this to Newsweek. The article states: '[Sharon is] prepared for a major accommodation in the [occupied] territories that Likud could not accept,' Olmert told Newsweek."

Press Advisor: "I haven't seen that yet. We'll look at it and see."