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(photo credit: Defense Ministry )
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz met recently and planned strategy for toppling Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, according to a report on journalist Yoav Yitzhak's Web site that was denied by spokesmen for both Netanyahu and Mofaz.
The report said the two men met secretly at the home of a well-known attorney. It said they discussed political developments, including the possibility of Mofaz drafting the 10 MKs necessary to split off from Kadima and join a coalition led by the Likud.
In such a scenario, the report said, Mofaz would become Netanyahu's defense minister, but only if Mofaz would be among the first MKs to break off from Kadima. Mofaz ran against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership last year but decided near the end of the campaign to drop out of the race and join Kadima.
Netanyahu is facing a leadership challenge in the Likud from former foreign minister Silvan Shalom, who invited hundreds of Likud activists to a post-Rosh Hashana toast he is hosting on Monday night in a large Ramat Gan wedding hall. Another prospective Likud leadership candidate, former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon, denied that he intends to enter politics in an interview with Channel 10 broadcast on Sunday night.
A spokesman for Mofaz said the meeting with Netanyahu took place a month ago at the home of attorney Yitzhak Molho, who was Netanyahu's personal attorney and an envoy to former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat when he was prime minister. But he said the two merely exchanged pleasantries and did not talk politics.
Netanyahu's spokesman Ophir Akunis added that there was a social meeting between the two a month ago, but said there was no attempt to bring Mofaz or 10 MKs from Kadima over to the Likud. The Likud leader said in closed conversations on Thursday that the Kadima Party would self-destruct before the next election but he would take no action to bring it about because getting caught interfering inside Kadima would harm him politically.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said they were aware of the meeting between Netanyahu and Mofaz and that they were "really not concerned" about it. Olmert bashed Mofaz in weekend interviews with the Hebrew press, accusing him of lying about warning Olmert of the ramifications of his decisions in the Lebanon war.
The prime minister also blamed Mofaz for many of the casualties in the war. Mofaz's spokesman declined to respond to the allegations.