Likud sets Dec. 19 as date for leadership vote

The Likud central committee convened on Thursday evening at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds for the first time since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon bolted the party amid bitter infighting among Sharon's potential successors. The central committee set December 19 as the date for the party leadership primary. December 26 was set as the date for a second round of elections, should no one receive the minimum 40 percent necessary to win the chairmanship. Interim Likud chairman Tzahi Hanegbi spoke at the meeting, saying that when Menahem Begin retired in 1983, no one believed that the Likud would survive the blow. "In Labor, they tailored their ministerial suits and got ready to divide the spoils," he continued. "But the Likud emerged victorious, as we will again," he said encouragingly. The six Likud leadership candidates signed a document vowing to "run clean campaigns without attacking each other personally, so that we will be able to work together after the race is over for the Likud's success in the general election."