When Justice Minister Tzipi Livni suggested the National Responsibility Party as a temporary name for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new political home, it was not expected to become permanent. But in Israel, temporary things tend to become permanent very quickly and focus groups helped Sharon's associates decide to keep the name.
Sharon's office confirmed on Tuesday night that the name had been chosen over Kadima (forward, in Hebrew) and Hatikva (the hope). Sharon's associates acknowledged that the name "sounds funny in English," but they said it was selected because it presents an important message about the way the prime minister runs the country.
National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday appealed to the party registrar, protesting the fact that the National Responsibility Party sounds too much like his party's name in English. The two parties would share the English acronym NRP, which would add to the confusion.
Sharon's advisers will register the new party at the party registrar's office on Wednesday or Thursday, submitting the party's platform and a list of its first 100 members. Sharon adviser Yoram Raved, who wrote the party's guidelines, said that the prime minister would be given the exclusive right to compose the party's list to the Knesset and decide its ministers.
A small party council will be formed that will not have the power to limit Sharon like the Likud central committee. Members will only be allowed to join the party in person, eliminating the possibility of "vote contractors," who have signed up thousands of people to Likud and Labor.
Labor MK Haim Ramon called a press conference for Wednesday at the Knesset to announce that he will be the first Laborite to join the party. Ramon worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that the political realignment that he called "a political big bang" would come to fruition.
Former Shas and Am Ehad MK David Tal was the only addition to National Responsibility on Tuesday. But Sharo n's associates are negotiating unofficially with Meimad's Rabbi Michael Melchior and other respected public figures. Former Shin-Bet chief Avi Dichter told Channel 10 that he had not yet made a decision about whether to join the party.
The six candidates for Sharon's vacancy as Likud chairman met at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters on Tuesday and decided to hold the leadership contest on December 19. In case none of the candidates receives at least 40 percent of the vote, a run-off election was set for December 22. The party's MKs will be chosen by the Likud central committee on January 3.
The dates selected were a compromise between former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud rebel leader Uzi Landau, who wanted the election as soon as possible, and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who wanted it as late as possible.
Shalom formally joined the race on Tuesday, while Education Minister Limor Livnat announced that she would not run. The Likud ministers also decided that they would not quit their cabinet posts until after a new chairman is elected.
"It would be irresponsible to leave the country without a foreign minister or defense minister," Shalom said. Livnat said it would be more fair for the ministers in Sharo n's party to resign and allow the Likud ministers to continue running the country.
Another Likud leadership candidate, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, used his position as Likud secretariat chairman to create facts on the ground in the party. On Tuesd ay he appointed his spokesman, Ronen Moshe, as Likud spokesman. He replaces Shmuelik Dahan, who left for Sharon's party.
Moshe is Landau's former spokesman and was the spokesman of Landau's campaign against disengagement. Katz has also made his former political adviser, Assaf Yitzhaki, a Likud deputy director-general.
The final Likud leadership candidate, Moshe Feiglin, will hold a campaign rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday.e
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