After three days of mutual recriminations between Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and his number two, MK Silvan Shalom, the two men are set to face off at Friday morning's Likud faction meeting at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters.
Shalom has not spoken publicly since the Likud's dramatic downfall from 40 seats to 12, but people who have spoken to him privately reported that he issued fierce attacks on Netanyahu. Shalom has said that Netanyahu must quit the Likud leadership after the devastating results of Tuesday's vote.
There is still a chance Shalom could boycott the meeting. He has spent the last three days meeting with Likud MKs and preparing for his inevitable
confrontation with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu was quoted as saying on Thursday that "Silvan is frustrated and he cares only about returning to his chair at the cabinet table."
In an effort to resist the pressure on him to resign, he has met with the Likud MKs who are loyal to him. He had a positive meeting on Thursday with MK Yisrael Katz, whose return to the Knesset was ensured after votes from soldiers counted on Thursday gave the Likud its 12th mandate.
Katz said he had no intention of interfering in the Netanyahu-Shalom rivalry. But MK Haim Katz, who is 13th on the list and apparently will not be returning to the Knesset, lashed out at Netanyahu. He blamed the party's downfall on the cuts he made in welfare benefits as finance minister.
"The public voted against Bibi, not against the Likud," Katz said. "If the party really was dear to him, he would leave."
The Likud faction is expected to vote for Gideon Sa'ar to continue as its head and to decide formally to recommend to President Moshe Katsav that Netanyahu form the next government. Netanyahu and other Likud leaders will meet with Katsav on Sunday.
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