Despite his call for early elections, Labor head
Shimon Peres explained Thursday evening that if Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon calls for the resumption of coalition talks, he would
consider doing so.

Earlier Thursday, several Labor MKs, including key members of the party
coalition talks team, called for the party to halt coalition talks.

MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called labor to disband negotiation team.

Labor negotiations team chairman MK Dalia Itzik, on Friday called on
Peres to join forces with Shinui in bringing about early elections.

‘What happened [on Wednesday] at the Likud central committee is proof
that Peres and [Shinui chairman and Justice Minister Yosef] Lapid need
to get together to officially discuss bringing about early elections,’
Itzik told Army Radio.

But MK Haim Ramon supported Peres’s stand as he said: ‘If Sharon approaches us, we must say ‘yes,”

The turmoil in labor followed the Likud convention vote banning labor from joining a national unity government.

Peres stressed that the majority in the country supports the
disengagement plan, calling for a return to the nation and request “a
renewed mandate for peace and unity.

‘We cannot entrust the fate of Israel in the hands of 800-900 people,
the proper thing to do is return to the nation and request a renewed
mandate for peace and unity.’ He said.

Yet Peres clarified that if Sharon requests that the Labor party return
to unity government talks, the party would consider doing so.

Immediately after the Likud convention, Sharon aids said Thursday that
he intended to push ahead with the disengagement plan and talks over a
Likud-Labor unity government, despite his defeat in the Likud

Sharon Received Double Slap at Likud Convention

Not only the Likud Rebels proposal passed, but also Sharon’s face
saving proposal was rejected Wednesday at the Likud convention.

Even as the wounded Prime minister considered the voting in the Likud
central committee as non-binding, he stepped out of the meeting
bleeding and tied handed.

Commentators believe that even if Sharon was sincere in his intentions
to implement his disengagement plan, he is incapable of moving even for
one step ahead.

The opposition proposal to ban Labor from joining the governmental
coalition passed with 843 to 612. Sharon’s proposal to allow the party
to hold coalition talks with all “Zionist” parties was defeated by 5

Unless Sharon goes in total defiance to his party, risking a serious
split, he would not be able to bring in, nor will be able to continue
talks with, Labor.

Without labor Sharon knows that Likud hardliners together with any
other potential right wing or ultra-orthodox partners will not allow
the implantation of disengagement.

Once again Sharon pointed finger at Finance Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, who clearly opposed inviting labor to join the ruling
coalition, but sat at the wall watching. Sharon expected Netanyahu to
stand with him after the Prime Minister fully backed his controversial
2005 state budget, risking the continuity of coalition talks with

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who totally allied with Likud rebels,
decided together with Netanyahu to keep their mouths shut during the

Sharon aids are trying to play down the results of the Wednesday voting
by pointing to the fact that Sharon won a large majority at the polling
station reserved for Likud MKs and minister 24-11 in favor of Sharon’s
proposal and 15-19 against the “Rebels” proposal.

Yet, as Likud MKs are elected by the party central committee, it is
unlikely for them to raise hands in support for any move that the
strong hold of Likud hardliners rejects.

Likud rebels are not rebels anymore; they have proven once again to be the house owners.

While addressing the convention, Sharon and his supporters repeatedly
reminded delegates that wining people’s confidence was only due to
Sharon’s policies, warning that if Likud is seen once again as a party
of right wing hardliners and as a rejections party, people of Israel
would turn back to it.

Opposition speakers pointed to the fact that if the prime minister was
interested in a stable government, he would be able immediately to form
a cabinet backed by 70 MKs representing right wing and ultra-orthodox

They claimed that their stand against Labor’s joining was a stand against a “path”, not a party.