Netanyahu launches political campaign with harsh words for Sharon and pledge to expand settlements
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched on Wednesday his campaign to lead Israel's ruling Likud party armed with harsh criticism towards Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"Jerusalem is in danger", he said, "Sharon has chosen to increase this danger when he decided to uproot Jews back to the ’67 borders,” referring to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank which Sharon has led, according to Reuters.
The majority of Israelis supported Sharon's removal of 9,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.
While touring the occupied lands of "El", which separate the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, Netanyahu told reporters that "The time has come to build here and I will build here."
The US has expressed concerns over possible construction in the El area, in which Israel has already announced plans to build a new police station.
Netanyahu added, "Sharon is delaying Jewish construction projects between Jerusalem and Maale Adumin, and the Palestinians are overtaking us on this." implying that more settlements need to be built in the West Bank.
Responding to Netanyahu's statements, Sharon's office said that Netanyahu "continues to spread lies and fantasies."
Netanyahu called on Sharon to run against him for leadership of the Likud party and said he would honor the outcome. "I am announcing and am undertaking to accept the will of the voter in the democratic process and will remain in my home, in my movement."
Netanyahu, a former prime minister and finance minister who resigned from Sharon's government three weeks ago in protest of the Gaza pullout plan, is reportedly seeking to convey the message that the Likud party wants to remove Sharon, the man who "betrayed" the Likud party's principals.
However, according to a recent survey, a 51 percent majority of Likud members continue to prefer Sharon over Netanyahu, while only 26 percent support Netanyahu.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)