's faction in the Knesset on Monday looked more than ever like it had already split in two.
The faction convened to discuss a proposal drafted by Likud mediators Michael Eitan and Gideon Sa'ar that was intended to produce a party cease-fire between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and his political opponents. But Sharon's supporters and enemies declined to hold their fire.
Likud rebel MK Ayoub Kara
said that Sharon acted like a mafioso. When Sharon loyalist Ruhama Avraham defended the prime minister, Kara said that her appointment as deputy interior minister was "the mother of all political prostitution."
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
warned that the mudslinging in the party could lead to its downfall.
"We have to make a decision," Shalom said. "If we want to stay in power for another year, let's act that way. If not, let's go to elections instead of embarrassing ourselves, shedding each other's polls while the Labor Party rehabilitates itself."
Sa'ar expressed hope that once the crisis over ministerial appointments passes his proposal could still be used to heal the rift in the party.
"Everyone agrees on what it says in the proposal and no one wants an election," Sa'ar said. "This document can become the basis to work together for the rest of the year."