Members of the Central Committee at the Likud party met on Sunday evening in Tel Aviv to discuss a proposal to advance the date of Likud leadership primaries.

The committee will vote on this issue on Monday. The voting is considered as favoring Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon’s rival. 

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu and Uzi Landau, who is also running for Likud chairmanship, met with their supports and instructed them not interrupt Sharon during his speech to the Likud Central Committee.

Also, Israeli Education Minister, Limor Livnat, expressed her clear support for moving up the primaries.


Yet, Livnat rejected suggestions that her decision was meant to help Netanyahu who is in favor of moving up the primaries.

Livnat said that she made her decision after her attempts to reach a compromise acceptable to Sharon and Netanyahu on a later date for primaries, have failed and so no alternative but to be in favor of holding early elections.

Livnat also said that she supports the Likud party, and “will do anything to keep it in power”, “If Sharon decides to leave and form a news party, and I will not leave the Likud”.

Sources close to Sharon said that they feared that the latest escalation in the situation in the Gaza Strip would affect Monday’s vote.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, slammed on Sunday, the criticisms voiced by Netanyahu against the Disengagement Plan.

Netanyahu charged that the homemade shells fired at Sderot were a direct outcome of the Gaza pullout.

Olmert said that the statements of Netanyahu are “pure demagoguery spiced with incitement”.

Meanwhile, Sharon’s aides said that the homemade shells which were fired on Saturday at the Negev were not helping Sharon especially in the eve of the vote.

Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that Sharon’s supporters are troubled by the atmosphere of the Israeli public which links disengagement with the attack carried by the Palestinian resistance.

A close aide of Sharon said on Sunday that if Likud central committee members believe that the pullout was harmful, then Sharon’s camp will have a problem.

Yet, a senior source at Netanyahu’s camp said that regardless of the timing of pullout “there is no doubt it brought good results to Israel”.

Israeli analysts believe that both Sharon and Netanyahu will use the latest escalation in their speeches.

Netanyahu was interviewed by the Israeli TV Channel 2. During the interview Netanyahu called on Cabinet to “retaliate harshly”, and said that he supports any act carried by Sharon regarding this issue. 

Netanyahu charged that the Gaza Strip became a solid ground for Hamas fighters, and a base firing homemade shells at Israeli areas.

“This is what I said would happen”, Netanyahu said, “There is a direct connection between pullout and the latest firing of homemade shells”.

Officials at Sharon camp said that the latest firing of homemade shells played in the hands of Netanyahu, and that he was the least popular Likud chairman since the party was founded.

Netanyahu, and member of Knesset Uzi Landau, continued intensive preparations for the committee meeting and for the vote on Monday.

Israeli Transportation Minister, Meir Sheetrit, said that a vote for early primaries could bring about a left-wing government takeover.