Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
wants to appoint five new ministers to his cabinet as early as Sunday, but he is waiting first to see when new Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu
intends to force Likud ministers to quit.
Sharon has been delaying the cabinet appointments since Labor left the government last month, in case Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
would win the Likud race and decide to keep the ministers in the cabinet. Despite Netanyahu's victory, Sharon decided not to appoint anyone until it is clear when Likud ministers will leave.
Netanyahu will convene the Likud faction at the Knesset on Wednesday for the first time since he won Monday's race. The timing of the departure of Likud ministers from the cabinet will be the first item on the faction's agenda.
"We need to differentiate the Likud from Kadima
and communicate to the voters that we stand for something different," Netanyahu said.
There are only four Likud ministers left in the government: Shalom, Education Minister Limor Livnat
, Health Minister Dan Naveh and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz. Livnat and Naveh are opposed to quitting the cabinet.
"The mandate of this government comes from the Likud," Livnat said. "The Likud ministers who stole their mandates and left the party are the ones who should be leaving the government. When they left the party, they should have also left the cabinet. Sharon stole the ministers and now they expect us to quit? I think that's absurd."
Netanyahu is considering taking the ministers out of the cabinet as soon as possible, or else waiting until after the January 3 Likud Knesset race.
Sharon is expected to appoint to the cabinet former Likud MKs Ze'ev Boim, Roni Bar-On and Ya'acov Edri. He will also appoint former Labor Party ministers Shimon Peres
and Haim Ramon. The positions that the five will receive have not been decided yet.
In the meantime, Sharon still holds seven ministerial portfolios. Sharon first reported not feeling well ahead of his stroke on Sunday after spending a long time signing documents for each of the ministries.
Sharon received good news on Tuesday when polls indicated that support for Kadima went up since the stroke. A Dahaf Institute poll in Yediot Aharonot
found that Kadima gained a mandate since Friday while Labor went down two.
According to a Teleseker poll in Ma'ariv, Kadima has gone up three seats to 42. The poll found that Sharon's most popular potential successor was Peres, followed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
. The poll also predicted that if Livni led Kadima the party would win the race, but if Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
was the leader, Labor would win.
The polls were taken before Netanyahu was elected Likud leader.