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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met on Thursday with Likud MKs Michael Eitan and Gideon Sa'ar in an attempt to find a solution that would enable Sharon to present his new minisetrail appointments to the Knesset.
After the meeting, which took place in Tel Aviv, the two self-appointed mediators in the struggle said that they had proposed several solutions but refused to elaborate.
Efforts to achieve a cease-fire between the warring factions inside the Likud proved fruitless Wednesday, two days after Sharon decided to postpone the key Knesset vote by seven days.
Likud rebel leader Uzi Landau gave Eitan and Sa'ar a laundry list of demands to deliver to Sharon. He said if Sharon gave in to his demands, the prime minister could have the six months without political infighting that he requested.
But Landau said even if Sharon accepted all his demands, he still wouldn't support the appointments of Sharon allies Ze'ev Boim and Roni Bar-On to the cabinet.
Landau said on principle he could not support Sharon appointing ministers based on their support for disengagement.
"I cannot raise my hand in support of Sharon's corruption of the political system," he said. "Sharon cannot get away with selling political appointments. What wasn't kosher when he tried to appoint Boim and Bar-On six months ago isn't kosher now either."
Landau's demands included commitments to build in the settlement blocs and in the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, appointing a minister to be in charge of helping Gaza Strip evacuees, and including additional help to the evacuees and the underprivileged in the 2006 budget.
Despite a decision by the Likud rebels not to demand portfolios for themselves, Landau said he would also demand promotions for his political allies.
In a sign that achieving such a cease-fire has little chance, Landau also demanded the dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist organizations as a prerequisite for uniting the Likud.
One Likud rebel who is likely to vote in favor of the appointments is MK Nomi Blumenthal, who promised Boim that she would support him.
Boim said he had no intention of offering to withdraw his candidacy for the cabinet to help Sharon solve his political crisis.
"The appointment on Monday will go forward as Sharon wants and Boim deserves," Boim's spokeswoman, Shiri Krispin, said. "There is no reason for Boim to remove his candidacy for the benefit of Sharon's political opponents who are acting to harm the prime minister and not for ideological reasons."
Sa'ar and Eitan also met Wednesday with rebel MK Michael Ratzon. Ratzon told the mediators that just like Landau, he would be willing to support the appointment of interim Finance Minister Ehud Olmert in a permanent capacity only if it was split off from the other appointments.
After Sharon made clear that he had no intention of splitting the appointments, Sharon's rival, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that he had changed his mind and was now willing to vote for Olmert if the vote was split.
"Bibi changes his mind every day and there is nothing new about that," a Sharon associate said in response, adding that Sharon had no intention of negotiating with Netanyahu, Landau or the rebels.
Netanyahu also came under fire from the Knesset on Wednesday. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin requested that Netanyahu limit his trips abroad due to the tremendous cost of providing security for him.
Since Netanyahu's resignation from the cabinet, the funding for his security guards was shifted from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to the Knesset. Netanyahu left early Thursday for a three-day trip to New York and Boston, where he will be speaking for the Friends of the IDF.
Netanyahu's spokesman said security officials decide how many guards travel with Netanyahu. He said Netanyahu shortened his trip, because he wanted to be in Israel on Monday to vote against Sharon's cabinet appointments.
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