Prime Minister Ariel Sharon invited former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Avi Dichter to come to his Negev ranch on Saturday night to discuss the role he will play when he joins Kadima, sources close to Sharon said on Thursday.
Dichter returned to Israel on Thursday from a threemonth fellowship at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC. Sharon returned to his ranch on Thursday night for the first time since his stroke on Sunday, with permission from his doctors.
It was unclear on Thursday whether the meeting would end up happening in the ranch or whether Dichter would have to wait until Sunday to meet Sharon at the Prime Minister's Office. Dichter is expected to announce that he is joining Kadima in a press conference on Monday or Tuesday.
"The minute I land in Israel, everything will be clear and everyone will know," Dichter told The Jerusalem Post in an interview three weeks ago.
Sharon is expected to ask Dichter to head Kadima's election day campaign. He is also expected to promise him a slot in the top five of the Kadima list.
The prime minister will begin a series of meetings on Sunday with new people he wants to add to Kadima's Knesset slate. Sharon's associates declined to reveal any names, but said they were educators, lawyers and businessmen and none of them are currently MKs.
Sharon met with Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday to scold them for headlines about fighting between the two over Kadima's second slot. The slot is considered crucial because of Sharon's health issues.
"Stop arguing, shut your mouths, stop dealing with yourselves and focus on your work," Sharon said according to his associates. "I will not tolerate such infighting. It damages the party." Sources close to Sharon said that if Olmert and Livni continue fighting, Sharon would remove them from the top five slots on the Kadima list. Livni and Olmert both told Sharon that they were also upset about the headlines.
"It's natural that we both want to be No. 2, but whatever Sharon decides is fine," Olmert said. "There is no conflict between us. We get along well and we have for years. I am sorry to disappoint you, but there won't be a war between us." Livni added that she "had no interest in the creating such a drama over something so unimportant."
Meanwhile, Sharon has decided not to appoint new cabinet ministers until after the Likud quits the government, even if new Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu decides to keep his party in the government until after the January 9 election for the Likud's Knesset list.
There was speculation that Sharon might decide to appoint five new Kadima ministers on Sunday to relieve himself of the burden of the hours of paperwork that comes with holding seven portfolios. Sharon first reported not feeling well ahead of his stroke when he was signing piles of documents for the ministries. But his associates said the appointments would have to wait.
"It's better to wait until the Likud ministers ave and we can look at the entire picture," a Sharon associate said. "So for now, the prime minister has no choice but to keep on signing the forms. But the good news is, the fewer ministers there are, the fewer mistakes."