14 Likud members of Knesset joined Sharon, on Monday evening, and became members of his new party which he called “The National Responsibility”. Israeli political analysts said that he managed to recruit one-third of the Likud MK’s to his new party.
Sharon headed the first meeting of the National Responsibility party, earlier on Monday, shortly after officially submitting his resignation from the Likud.
The meeting was closed to the media, and was attended by 12 Likud members, Ministers Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Avraham Hirschon and Gideon Ezra, as well as by Likud MKs Omri Sharon, Marina Solodkin, Roni Bar-On, Ruhama Avraham, Eli Aflalo and Ze’ev Boim.
The Israeli radio reported that Sharon wrote a letter to the Likud party chairman saying that he is resigning from the Likud, and forming a new one. The resignation came several hours after meeting with the Israeli President Moshe Katsav, and asking him to dissolve the Knesset and call for early elections.
The elections will most likely be held in March.
Also, Sharon met with the Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, earlier on Monday, and asked him to join his party. Mofaz said that he would join if he remains in his position as a Minister of Defense.
Mofaz said that he would like to compete for Likud chairmanship.
The Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that several non-Likud personalities were also reportedly planning to stand with the prime minister, including former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, Ben Gurion University President Avishai Braverman, Professor Uriel Reichmann and former Likud minister Dan Meridor, who has expressed a desire to return to politics.
Meanwhile, Israeli Vice Premier, Shimon Peres, held long talks with Sharon on Sunday, and said that he will not leave the party in order to join Sharon, but expressed willingness to cooperate with him.
Senior Likud officials said that the new party would be “true centrist party, from every perspective: political, economic and social”.