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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Likud chairmanship candidate MK Silvan Shalom lashed out at his rival, party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday, accusing him of trying to win the Likud leadership unfairly.
The two men met briefly at Netanyahu's Knesset office to try to resolve differences over when the primary should be held. Netanyahu suggested the beginning of August, in order to finish the race as soon as possible and allow the party to focus on preparing for the general election. Shalom said that one month was not enough time to prepare.
Following the meeting, Netanyahu invited every Likud MK except Shalom to a faction meeting, and they decided together on a compromise of holding the race on September 3 instead of the August 7 date Netanyahu had originally proposed. The Likud central committee will convene at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Tuesday to finalize the decision.
"We still prefer to get the race out of the way in August, but Bibi [Netanyahu] is a mensch and he is willing to go out of his way to make everyone happy," a source close to Netanyahu said.
But Shalom made it clear that he was not happy with Netanyahu. Sources close to him accused Netanyahu of harming the party by exhibiting the undermining behavior that had given him a bad reputation.
"I asked Bibi to decide with me on rules for the race to ensure that it will be fair," Shalom said after the meeting between the two. "The ball is in his court to decide whether the race will unify or divide the party. I hope his logic and brains will overcome his emotions, but he is putting his emotions first. I told him holding elections in the summer is impossible and unfair."
As for Netanyahu's argument that the primary needed to be held as soon as possible so the party would be ready for a general election, Shalom said he proposed to Netanyahu to decide in advance that if the government fell, the primary could be expedited and held within three weeks. Netanyahu rejected the idea.
In the faction meeting, Netanyahu's loyalists mocked Shalom for spending the past few months urging that the primary be held as soon as possible, and now pushing for a delay. "Silvan has proven to be a dog who barks but has no bite," a Netanyahu loyalist said.
The only Likud MK besides Shalom who did not attend the faction meeting was Yuli Edelstein, who was invited but was upset that Netanyahu wanted him to a leave a Knesset session with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about the fate of Gush Katif evacuees. Edelstein said it was absurd that he was the only Likud MK who attended the session, because the others were busy with internal politics.
Beersheba Likud activist Vladimir Herczberg announced on Wednesday that he would run against Netanyahu, Shalom and central committee member Moshe Feiglin for Likud leader. Herczberg ran for the position in the past and also ran unsuccessfully recently for head of the Jewish Agency and of the World Jewish Congress.