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Likud Party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu is skeptical about whether his Likud rival, MK Silvan Shalom, will challenge him in the Likud leadership race, sources close to Netanyahu said Tuesday.
"We have to set fair, transparent and agreed upon rules for the contest," Shalom wrote Netanyahu. "Setting such rules will allow the race to unite the party instead of dividing the party and enhancing internal rivalries."
Sources close to Netanyahu accused Shalom of looking for excuses not to run, because he is afraid of getting trounced in the race. They said that Shalom had already given three different reasons why he opposed holding the race in August.
"He's looking for reasons to sit the election out," a source close to Netanyahu said. "Maybe he is panicking."
Shalom's associates declined to respond to the accusations. They said they were limited to giving the same response they gave when Netanyahu announced that he was advancing the primary on Monday: that Shalom was "happy that Netanyahu accepted his request to hold primaries."
Sources close to Shalom were quoted calling Netanyahu's decision to hold the race next month "a political trick" and "an attempt to legitimize Netanyahu joining the government after the primary."
"If Bibi is so confident of victory, why can't he play the game by the rules?" a source close to Shalom was quoted as saying.
Likud activist Moshe Feiglin, who intends to run against Netanyahu and Shalom, expressed confidence that he would eventually win the party leadership. Feiglin, who finished third in a four-man race in December 2005, said he was sure that this time he could at least finish second.
"Holding the race as soon as possible is good for the Jews, because they deserve a real opposition," Feiglin said. "There are many bad decisions of the government that Netanyahu could have protested but didn't. It has never been easier to present an alternative to the government, but unfortunately, Netanyahu hasn't done it."