Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told members of the Likud executive on Sunday in Tel Aviv, at their first meeting since the Knesset elections, that there was a need for "perspective, to let the dust settle a little" before the party could come out with a clear program on the new diplomatic and security situation.
Netanyahu attacked the government for "one-sided concessions and a limp international stand. They are already prepared to give up land and have a timetable for retreat. And on the international stage, after saying that they wouldn't give money to the Palestinian Authority, in a matter of days they gave in on that. They promised a massive retaliation to the first missile attack and we've already stopped counting the missiles that have been launched against us since then."
Netanyahu said that the Likud's policy would be one of "dealing with the issues from a position of power and mutuality, also in negotiations - if there will be a partner - and right now there is no partner."
The meeting attended by seven of the party's 12 Knesset members and about 60 members of the executive was replete with bitter recriminations towards the Likud members who currently serve in the Knesset. Most of the speakers attacked them for acquiescing to Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and for forsaking the Likud's traditional positions. The MKs were unapologetic and Limor Livnat, for example, drew heckling calls when she said that "if we express the views of the National Union, then we'll receive the same number of MKs that they have. We shouldn't be joining that kind of right wing."
Former minister Yisrael Katz said that although he was sure the new government would fall, he "wasn't sure whether we would be the alternative to which the voters turn."
The most bitter criticism was reserved for No. 2 on the Likud's list, former foreign minister Silvan Shalom, who didn't turn up at the meeting. More than one member shouted "he's busy collecting signatures," a reference to Shalom's ongoing attempt to collect the requisite 600 signatures of central committee members needed to convene a meeting of the Likud central committee where he plans to demand a new date for leadership primaries.
Netanyahu also reported on the party's financial situation. He said that the Likud was currently suffering from a NIS 40 million deficit and as a result had to fire 60 employees of the party apparatus and was now examining widespread closures of party branches around the country and introducing a scheme of "time-sharing" in new regional branches.
Despite not referring to his main rival Shalom, Netanyahu said that the only way the party could unite voters around its values was "if we show that we can rebuild ourselves with joint forces." He said that "no one will want to join what looks like a warring family."