With the Likud losing one of its major ideological thinkers when MK Natan Sharansky quits the Knesset on Sunday, party activists have begun pressuring former internal security minister Uzi Landau to agree to return to the legislature.
Sharansky will submit his resignation to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik on Sunday following a meeting with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu that was postponed from Wednesday. Forty-eight hours later, the resignation will take effect and Sharansky will be replaced by the next name on the Likud list, former MK Haim Katz.
Katz is under indictment for allegedly violating the party financing law when he ran for Knesset with Am Ehad in 1999. Because he has not been convicted, he is allowed to serve in the parliament.
Katz will join a list of currently indicted MKs that includes Seniors Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan (Gil Pensioners), Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), Haim Ramon (Kadima) and Shlomo Benizri (Shas).
Other lawmakers under investigation include Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Kadima), Vice Premier Shimon Peres (Kadima), Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu), Ruhama Avraham (Kadima), Eli Aflalo (Kadima), Yisrael Katz (Likud) and nearly all the MKs in Balad and the United Arab List.
Landau is the next name on the Likud candidates list and he would enter the Knesset if either Haim or Yisrael Katz were convicted or if Likud MK Reuven Rivlin were elected president. But Landau has said repeatedly since the March election that he has retired from politics.
Likud activists who came to hear Landau speak at a World Likud ideological forum at Tel Aviv's Beit Hahayal on Wednesday said Landau was needed in the Knesset because of his clean reputation and his loyalty to Likud ideology. Landau was received with applause and several activists called upon him to return to political life.
"The Likud is at a crossroads at which it must decide whether it is an ideological party or a supermarket of opinions," World Likud chairman Danny Danon said. "Uzi Landau, who truly represents Likud principles, is needed more than ever. After less ideologically committed Likud people left for Kadima, this is the time to return to our roots."
Dannon lamented the fact that on the same day that Sharansky's intention to quit politics became known, the new face that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu brought to the party was former OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Peled. Peled, who in the past has supported prime ministerial candidates Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, told reporters at the Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters on Wednesday that he saw no difference between the Likud and Kadima.
Landau told The Jerusalem Post he did not believe he should serve in this Knesset because the voters had said no to the Likud's ideology and because he did not believe he could have an impact as a backbench MK.
"I don't see myself having any influence," Landau said. "I could not be effective so there is no reason for me to join the Knesset. I was in the Knesset for 22 years and served in two governments. Unless I could really have an effect on the government's policies and make a significant impact on the country's future, I see no reason for me to be in politics."
Landau said he believed he could have more influence outside politics by writing a book and heading a new project that aims to acquaint center-to-left secular people with Judea and Samaria. Landau, who recently recovered from prostate cancer, said he preferred that a younger candidate enter the Knesset, such as former MK Yuli Edelstein, who is next on the Likud list after Landau.
The World Likud decided at the event to promote an initiative to convince the Likud as a whole to adopt a more traditional Likud policy advocated by Landau that rules out removing settlements and a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.
"I am glad that a forum within this party is finally speaking about our principles and ideology," Landau told the audience. "The Likud needs to be telling everyone that the Palestinians are the occupiers and that we have returned to the land of our forefathers."
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.