Shalom: Netanyahu concedes too much

Seeks hawkish voters for Likud primary with attack on Wye agreement.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
December 16, 2005 02:48
3 minute read.
silvan shalom looks pensive or sorry 298.88

shalom pensive 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made territorial concessions to the Palestinians in the past and he would make them again in the future, according to Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Polls have shown that Shalom has support from centrist voters in the race but he needs more hawkish Likudniks to back him to beat Netanyahu in Monday's Likud primary. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Thursday night, Shalom sent Likud members a message that they might regret voting for Netanyahu. "You have to remember the not-too-distant past when Netanyahu gave up 13 percent of the West Bank in the Wye Agreement, and I was the only Likud minister who voted against it because I said Yasser Arafat couldn't be trusted," he said. "He gave the Palestinians Hebron and he sent Ron Lauder to Syria to negotiate the Golan. We only have to look at history to predict what could happen [in the future]." Shalom also mocked Netanyahu for saying "Likudniks don't attack Likudniks" was the 11th commandment. "It's funny that he says that, because he thinks people don't remember that he attacked [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon day and night when Sharon was Likud chairman," he said. Pollsters were split Thursday about how close the race was. A Shavakim Panorama poll on Israel Radio found that Shalom was nearly as popular as Netanyahu, trailing by only 1%. But among the 57% of Likud members who intended to vote in the race, Netanyahu's lead was 15%. A Ma'agar Muhot poll to be published in Makor Rishon predicted that Netanyahu would win by 25%, and a Dialogue poll in Ha'aretz said he would defeat Shalom by 17%. Shalom said the 128,000 Likud members eligible to vote in the race would have to decide whether to elect a candidate like himself, who could attract centrist voters from Kadima, or a candidate like Netanyahu, who is perceived as too right-wing. Netanyahu declined to respond to Shalom's attacks, preferring to reserve his wrath for Sharon. He told a crowd at an Israel Bar Association event in Tel Aviv, "Sharon will carry out the mother of all withdrawals" if he is reelected. At the same event, Netanyahu revealed that an Italian businessman suggested he become Italy's finance minister. A Sharon associate quipped, "It was unfortunate that Netanyahu did not accept the offer and spare Israelis his fear-mongering." Shalom, who is backed by Sharon's former supporters in the Likud, declined to attack Sharon, saying only that the Laborites who have joined Kadima supported major territorial concessions offered by former prime minister Ehud Barak and would likely have influence in a government led by Kadima. Kadima went down in the polls for the first time this week, according to polls published in Yediot Aharonot and Ha'aretz. A Dahaf Institute poll found that Kadima fell by three mandates since last week, from 41 to 38. A Dialogue poll in Ha'aretz had Kadima falling by four mandates to 35, from 39 last week. Kadima held steady at 39 seats in Ma'ariv's Teleseker poll. The polls indicated that Labor and Likud barely gained at Kadima's expense, with most of the party's lost voters going to "undecided." A Sharon associate explained the downturn in the polls by saying, "Kadima made mistakes this week." Kadima was harmed by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's opportunistic jump to the party, Kadima candidate Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai's indictment and reports of Sharon adviser Kalman Gayer's statements to Newsweek about the possibility of Sharon dividing Jerusalem. Kadima is expected to go down in the polls next week, too, because of the boost the Likud is likely to receive after it elects a leader. But a Sharon adviser said Kadima could gain in the polls if Likud leadership candidate Moshe Feiglin, who is running third, did well in the race. Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, who is running a distant fourth, vowed to stay in the race in a speech to supporters in Sderot.

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