shalom pensive 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Likud leadership candidate Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, addressing Likud interim chairman Tzahi Hanegbi's defection to the Kadima party, accused the Likud rebels of breaking up the Likud.
"I think the group of extremists managed to break up the Likud - to crush it," the foreign minister charged. "It is forcing people to leave it, to leave home."
Hinting at the ongoing squabbles within the party, Shalom charged: "People are bullying and aggressive, perpetrating witch hunts against others, and trying to drive out [other party members]." He appealed to his fellow Likudniks to "do everything in order to keep our people at home [in the Likud].
Hanegbi's defection from the party, which he announced in a noon press conference Wednesday, came as a blow to the Likud.
The move provoked a hailstorm of accusations and mud-slinging from Hanegbi's former party colleagues, but most brushed off the move as insignificant and a symptom of weakness.
"I am very sorry that Tzahi's strength didn't hold out," Shalom said, "because in two weeks there will be a dramatic change in the Likud when I am elected to head the party."
Top Likud leadership candidate Binyamin Netanyahu said he did not assign any political significance to Hanegbi's move, attributing Hanegbi's departure to "great personal distress" he was suffering due the police's recommendation Wednesday to the state prosecutor that Hanegbi be charged for the illegal political appointments he made during his stint as environment minister.
"One should not be judged at such a time," Netanyahu said, adding his condolences and wishing Hanegbi success in recovering from his personal problems.
Likud representatives said that the political rules have been shattered. They accused the prime minister of "acting immorally and violating the rules of the game."
MK Ayoob Kara responded, saying that "the stain of criminal indictment has become the entrance ticket into Kadima. It's unfortunate that a friend has sold his Likudnik soul to the extreme left in order to save himself from the knives of the judicial elite. It is now apparent that Tzahi Hanegbi was Omri Sharon's Trojan horse in the Likud."
Michael Ratzon (Likud) in an interview to Israel Radio accused Kadima of "forming a brothel."
Ratzon noted the offensiveness of Hanegbi "fooling the party," serving as its interim chairman while planning his defection.
Another Likud MK, Gilad Erdan, accused Hanegbi of abandoning the fight for Likud values long ago, and aided the disengagement through his silence. He believed Hanegbi's career began ideologically, but ended opportunistically.
Within the Likud, there was an initiative to appoint former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens as interim chairman of the Likud until their primaries on December 19. Likud party member and chairman of the world Betar movement, Danny Danon recommended that Arens be chosen for the job because it would be wrong if one of the leadership candidates receive the position and use it to promote his candidacy.