Shinui leader Yousef Lapid expressed readiness to return to government if the Labor party withdraws from the government.

Lapid said that in response to comments made by some politicians that the Labor Party might withdraw from the government after the disengagement plan is implemented.

Apparently, Labor is thinking of leaving the government over budgetary only; however Labor leaders believe that leaving the government at this time may thwart the implementation of the disengagement plan which the party supports.

‘I have no problem returning to the government if Labor leaves because it opposes the next budget,’ Lapid said. ‘We support Netanyahu’s economic policies. … but,’ he said, ‘if Labor leaves for political reasons connected with the peace process, Shinui will not be able to replace it in the government. We are no less committed to the peace process than Labor.’

He added that if Shinui was invited to return, the decision would not be affected by electoral considerations. ‘We are in a situation where the number of mandates we get is not affected by being in the coalition or the opposition.’

Out of fear that the Likud Central Committee might choose someone else to head the party other than the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the current leader of the party, Sharon’s advisors want to delay the elections as soon as possible, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Friday.

Haaretz added that that is why Sharon’s advisors have been investigating whether Shinui and the National Religious Party (NRP) are likely candidates to rejoin the government in the autumn.

Political observer said there are three circumstances that could speed up Labor’s departure: Electing a new party head in place of Vice Premier Shimon Peres; a 2006 budget that reflects what Peres called Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘swinish capitalism’; or a tougher attitude on the part of Sharon against the Palestinians with a view to improving his election chances in the Likud.

It is doubted that Sharon the current government can remain steady if Sharon reshuffles his cabinet a year before the end of his government term.  However, another point of view suggests that it would be possible for him to do that since by announcing that he does not plan another disengagement he could possibly win back the Likud rebels, among which, three key Likud Ministers, who want to remain in the Knesset.

Minister of Finance, Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Foerign Minister Silvan Shalom are leaders of the Likud rebels have conservatively supported Sharon’s disengagement plan and will never support another one.