As speculations about a political ‘big bang’ in Israel intensify, Yousef Lapid, chairman of the Israeli Shinui party and former Minister of Justice, said on Thursday that he does not rule out the possibility of joining the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Vice-Premier Shimon Peres in a new party.

Israeli sources quoted Lapid as saying ‘The ‘big bang’ has been hanging in the air for quite a while.’ He added, ‘I haven’t held any talks on the matter, but such an outcome would not surprise me, because I think that the majority of the public is positioned in the center of the political system. The public is not leaning to the left or right but the center.’

A poll conducted by the Israeli Yediot Aharonot daily on Thursday showed that a party joining Lapid, Sharon and Peres would win 38 seats in the Knesset, with the Likud Party reaching 14 seats and Labor only seven seats.

‘People feel that if experienced and fairly old men like us [Sharon, Peres and Lapid] headed the political system, it would calm down,’ Lapid went on to say.

Lapid also said that his Shinui party, a secular centrist movement that is now in the opposition,  would probably favor moving forward the elections from November 2006. He stressed, though, that Israelis must give disengagement a priority and only then look for a new government.

‘We first have to finish with the issue of the disengagement and then discuss how to reelect the right government,’ Lapid said.

He hinted that it does not have to be a party, but an alliance, hoping that this would become a large force in Israel.

‘If something new will be formed, it would be an alignment and not necessarily a party. It’s enough to go [to elections] with a new alignment in order to become the largest political force in the country,’ he said.