Likud crisis to go down to wire

The crisis in the Likud over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet appointments is unlikely to be resolved until just ahead of the deadline that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz set for appointing Ehud Olmert as finance minister. Mazuz ruled that if a finance minister is not appointed in a permanent capacity by next Wednesday, early elections would be necessary. Mazuz's ruling put pressure on Sharon and his political opponents to reach a compromise or risk losing power. But neither side appeared to be in too much of a hurry on Tuesday. MK Michael Eitan, who took it upon himself to try to resolve the crisis, met only with former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and made little progress. Eitan explained to Netanyahu the necessity of healing the rift in the party. Netanyahu gave Eitan the impression that he might be willing to abstain on the appointment of temporary finance minister Ehud Olmert in a permanent capacity, but only if Sharon would agree to split the vote on Olmert's appointment from that of Sharon allies Ze'ev Boim and Roni Bar-On. Sharon's associates said there was zero chance of that happening. They said that Sharon would be meeting over the next few days with Likud rebels and that Sharon expects them to change their minds and vote in favor to prevent the advancement of the election. The prime minister will meet on Wednesday with Leah Ness and on Thursday with Gilad Erdan and Haim Katz. Sharon will also meet on Wednesday with two former allies in the cabinet who turned against him recently, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Health Minister Dan Naveh. Eitan will also meet with Likud rebel MKs on Wednesday, starting with breakfast with MK Michael Ratzon and ending with an evening meeting with rebel leader Uzi Landau. "I am mostly listening and this is the start of the process," Eitan said. "There is only a ten percent chance of success and we have to be realistic."