Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, met on Monday morning, with the Israeli President Moshe Katsav and informed the he intends to dissolve the Knesset. Katsav told Sharon that the elections should be held as soon as possible.
The meeting took place in the official residence of Katsav in Jerusalem. Katsav is expected to give another Knesset member a period of 21 days to form a new coalition, followed by a 14-day extension; general elections in Israel are set to be held three months later.
Sharon will officially announce his decision to abandon the Likud and form a new alliance on Monday evening, at 19:00.
The Israeli Presidents said after his meeting with Sharon that he [Sharon] has asked him to dissolve the Knesset and push forward the elections, adding that the government, in its current formation does not allow proper functions.
Katsav stated that he intends to hold further meetings later on Monday, adding that he personally believes that the elections should be pushed forward.
Also, Sharon is expected to meet with several ministers, and members of the Knesset, whom he would like to join his new party; this includes people who are not members of the Likud.
Close aides to Sharon estimate that 12-14 Likud ministers and Knesset members will join him, this includes the Israeli Finance Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Justice Mnister, Tzipi Livni; both declared that they will be leaving the Likud. Senior Likud members, Ronnie Bar-On and Meir Sheetrit, are also part of Sharon’s camp.
Ministers Avraham Hirschon, Meir Sheetrit and Gideon Ezra., Eli Aflalo, Ruhama Avraham, Inbal Gavrieli and Majali Wahabi were also reported to be planning to support Sharon.
Sharon recently hinted that he would like the outgoing Labor party head, and the Vice premier, Shimon Peres, to join his new party. Other figures, who are not currently party of the political established, where also mentioned, such as former Shin Bet Director Avi Dicther and former Likud Minister Dan Meridor.
Meanwhile, senior officials of the Labor party predicted on Monday that Peres will not leave the party and join Sharon’s new party, and that he will be integrated, in a way or another, into the future government.
The officials said that both Sharon and the new Labor leader Amir Peretz will offer Peres involvement in the new government after the Israeli elections.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Likud faction, Gideon Sa’ar, asked Likud Members of Knesset “not to take part in taking the party down”, and added that members who are known as supporters of Sharon are currently facing pressure to leave the Likud.
One of the associates of the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Monday that “it is better and more democratic that Sharon left the Likud, since his agenda does not fit the party”.
After the resignation of Sharon, Knesset Member and Chairman of the Likud Central Committee Tzahi Hanegbi has been appointed as the temporary Likud secretary-general; he is expected to convene the party’s Central Committee in order to set a date for primary elections for a new leader for the Likud party’s Knesset list.
Labor party head, Amir Peretz said the recent developments are serving the interests of his party to gain the new political system, adding that if the Likud and the new party headed by Sharon clash, this may benefit the Labor party.
MK Effie Eitam, member of the Renewed National Religious Zionism, said that the Likud party is “paying the price of betraying Israel”, while Likud MK Ehud Yatom said that Sharon’s decision to quit the Likud is similar to his decision to “uproot the Jews” from Gaza and the West Bank.
Eitam added that Sharon created the Likud party and is currently dissolving it.