Shinui leader Yosef Lapid announced to reporters that his party is not joining forces with the newly formed centrist party created Monday by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"We are going to the elections as an independent party," said Lapid of his secular centrist party. Any conversations about Shinui's relationship with Sharon's party could only happen after the elections, he said.
While there are similarities between Sharon's beliefs and that of Shinui, there are significant differences on issues of a secular government and corruption, said Lapid.
He was not afraid, he said, by the creation of a second centrist party.
Sharon, he said, had paid lip service to Shinui's pursuit of separating religion and government as a politically expedient move to keep Shinui in the coalition, but it did not reflect a true principle of belief. It's one of Shinui's core values, he said.
On the subject of corruption and clean government, Lapid said, nothing need be added. "I don't need to attack Sharon," he told The Jerusalem Post. The problems here are obvious to the voters."
Shinui has long held the belief that on a number of issues, disengagement included, it had set the prime minister's agenda and that only when its party had stated principles of actions did Sharon follow suit. Lapid said he felt that, by creating a new centrist party, Sharon was following in Shinui's footsteps. "The question should be why isn't Sharon joining forces with us," he said in a tongue-in-cheek comment.
He didn't fear loss of votes to a second centrist party, Lapid told the Post, because he believes that his party will gain from Labor's swing to the left following the election of Amir Peretz.
He believes Labor's more central-leaning voters will join Shinui once the euphoria that follows Peretz's election to the party leadership dies down.
Sharon's party lacks a real platform, said Shinui MK Eliezer Sandberg, who explained that Shinui has long stood on core principals that draw voters. The polls, he said, are giving Shinui 7 or 8 mandates in the next elections, compared to the 15 it received in the last one, but he believes that as the campaign progresses the party will regain support.
From now to the election, close to 100 days, is a long time in Israeli politics, said Sandberg.