Michael Eitan offers to lead Likud

Vows to hold onto position only until elections for permanent leader are held.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
April 25, 2006 01:41
2 minute read.
likud 298.88

likud 298.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Amidst the battle between Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and his number two, MK Silvan Shalom, Likud MK Michael Eitan called a press conference at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters on Monday to offer a solution to the feud: himself. Eitan said the Likud should appoint him as temporary chairman until an election could be held to elect a permanent leader who would be its candidate for prime minister in the next election.

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Vowing to not run for the permanent post, Eitan formed a new movement within the Likud called Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) that he said he would use to help the party recover from its downfall from 40 seats to 12 under Netanyahu. "When I say I can help the party recover, it is more believable than when other people say it, because they are saying it for political reasons," Eitan said, referring to Netanyahu and Shalom. Eitan said that before electing a new permanent leader the party should conduct a voter registration drive to bring in as many young people as possible. He also said it should rebuild its institutions and renew itself ideologically, and suggested separating the posts of party chairman and prime ministerial candidate, as is done in England. He said he met with many Likud activists who support him and that he moved up his announcement about Ofek Hadash to present a new alternative in the wake of Shalom's recent attacks on Netanyahu. Signatures from 600 of the 3000 Likud central committee members are needed to convene the committee to discuss overthrowing Netanyahu. Shalom started the process of drafting signatures on Sunday in a meeting with top Likud activists at his Ramat Gan home. Shalom told The Jerusalem Post that he believed he could sign up the 600 activists within a few days and elect a new leader within 30 days. He said he had no comment on Eitan's ideas. "We have to take quick action," Shalom told Army Radio. "The Likud is not in wonderful shape. We barely scraped the twelfth mandate. We are in debt millions of shekels. Branches are closed. And Bibi is writing books." Shalom said the Likud lost voters due to Netanyahu's ambivalent response to the Gaza disengagement, his economic plan and his personality. "People have left the Likud because the Likud left the people," Shalom said. "I believe I can bring them back," he added. Netanyahu's spokesman responded by accusing Shalom of being an underminer and saying that party MKs should be unified in attacking Kadima and not engage in internal rivalries. A senior Likud official who is not loyal to Netanyahu, Shalom or Eitan said that, although the enmity toward Netanyahu in the party was significant, neither Shalom's nor Eitan's proposals stood a chance.


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