Ratzon mulls forming new rightist party

"The Likud has lost its ideology;" party would represent right-wing secular voters.

Fed up with the Likud's centrist leanings, MK Michael Ratzon is considering leaving the party to either form a new right-wing one or to revive Herut, which failed to get enough votes to enter the last Knesset. He was one of the leaders of the so-called Likud rebels who opposed the disengagement plan. Together with MK Uzi Landau, he attempted to thwart Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at every turn. Ratzon said hearing that the Likud was considering acceptance of a Palestinian state was the final straw for him. He came in 33rd on his party's Knesset list and has little to lose by striking out on his own. "The Likud has lost its ideology," Ratzon told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. He said he wanted to form or strengthen a party that truly represented the right-wing voter, but had not yet made a final decision. He said if he did leave the Likud, he was likely to be joined by other MKs and party members. Ratzon said he was not worried that he might take away votes from two other right-wing parties - the National Union and the National Religious Party. He said both of those parties represented the right-wing religious voter, but there was no party that stood for the territorial integrity of Israel and a broader agenda that represented the secular voter. Herut leader Michael Kleiner, who is running for the 17th Knesset, said the addition of Likud MKs could boost his party and ensure its return to the Knesset. "It's a good base," he said, adding that his party was the only one left on the map that was true to the original ideals of the Likud. Even the National Union and the NRP failed in this regard because they both stayed in the government when it was already clear that Sharon was moving to the center, he said. Herut, based on the philosophy of Revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky, was first led by former prime minister Menachem Begin in 1948. It was one of the founding parties of the coalition of right-wing parties that became the Likud. It ceased to exist as an independent party in 1988, but was revived a decade later by Michael Kleiner and Benny Begin, Begin's son. Kleiner, who had been a Likud MK since 1982, left to run as Herut leader on a joint ticket with the National Union. In the last election Herut ran alone, but failed by a narrow margin to pass the electoral threshold. Ratzon was also talking with the National Union about joining their list. A National Union spokesman confirmed that his party had spoken with Ratzon, but no decision had been made. Landau denied rumors that he would leave the Likud to join Ratzon. His spokesman said Landau intended to remain in the Likud and fight within the party for its right-wing principles.