Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon former science minister Benny Begin on Monday to end his retirement from politics and return to the Likud.
Netanyahu issued the call
in an interview with the Knesset Channel. Netanyahu said in the interview that he had spoken to people close to Begin, but Begin told The Jerusalem Post
that Netanyahu had made no contact with him.
"I haven't heard from him and he hasn't called me, so I don't have to respond," Begin said.
Since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
departure from the Likud last week, the name of Begin's revered father, former prime minister Menachem Begin, has been invoked more and more by Likud activists complaining about the lack of leadership in the party.
The call for Benny Begin to return to the Likud was seen in Likud circles as an attempt by Netanyahu to tie himself to the elder Begin. It was not the first time that Likud candidates have called for the return of Begin, who retired from politics after his poor showing as the head of the National Union Party
in the 1999 election.
Netanyahu convened top Likud activists in a rally on Monday in Nes Ziona. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
will launch his campaign with an event on Tuesday in Ramat Gan and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz will host an event on Thursday.
Mofaz broke out in tears on Monday night during an interview with Channel 2's Yair Lapid
when he was asked about his late father, who brought the family from Iran to Eilat when Mofaz was nine years old. "This is a very emotional point for me," he said, "because I owe a deep gratitude to my dad."
Interim Likud chairman Gideon Sa'ar will convene the party leadership on Wednesday to start preparing the campaign for the general election. Education Minister Limor Livnat
said the party had to appoint a public relations team to replace the people who left with Sharon to the new Kadima party
Sa'ar called upon Kadima on Monday to return some NIS 4 million in party funding to the Likud. Sa'ar produced a document signed by Sharon and other Kadima MKs in May 2003 promising not to take the Likud's party
funding if there were a split in the party. Kadima officials ridiculed the request.