Sharon Urges Political Parties to Reach National Unity

Published February 19th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon urged political parties Sunday to see beyond "small-minded politics" and "personal interests" in order to form a national unity government, a Sharon spokesman was quoted by AFP as saying. 

"In the light of the current security situation, the political challenges we have ahead of us and unity are more important than narrow personal interests", the spokesman said in a statement. 

According to Israeli radio, the prime minister-elect was referring to the wave of discontent met by the outgoing prime minister, Ehud Barak, within his party, when he agreed that Labor should share power with Sharon's Likud in a national unity government. 

Barak, said Haaretz, ordered a postponement of the convention of the Labor Party's Central Committee, which was scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the party's inclusion in a unity government.  

The postponement caused much anger among the Likud, which had hoped to present a government to the Knesset early next week, said the paper. 

Meretz leader, Yossi Sarid called on Barak to "zigzag one more last time, but this time, for a change, in the right direction and to repeat the resignation and retirement announcement he made 12 days ago," said The Jerusalem Post newspaper. 

Sarid said that all Barak's maneuvering and tricks would not save him, adding that the outgoing prime minister had no chance of a political comeback in the future.  

"There is no way that the peace camp will support Barak another time after he has agreed to join the Tehran-Aswan government." 

In another development, the National Religious Party (NRP) faction will meet Monday to decide whether its opposition to the appointment of Barak as defense minister should be an ultimatum to Sharon and the Likud, said Haaretz.  

The faction chairman, MK Shaul Yahalom, said Sunday that the NRP would not join Sharon's coalition if Barak was appointed defense minister.  

"It is not feasible that someone who failed as prime minister and defense minister, and who is no longer considered chairman of his own party, should be appointed to a key position after his political and security policies suffered a crushing defeat in the last election," Yahalom said. 

Meanwhile, leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, Eli Yishai said Sunday that his party "won't be able to join the coalition unless the yeshiva student [army service deferral] issue is solved, according to the Post.  

No national unity government can be formed without the resolution of this matter."  

Yishai met with Ariel Sharon to discuss the military exemption question.  

The idea of a Likud maneuver to pass the army exemption bill prior to the government's formation was broached during their discussion.  

Likud and Shas leaders assume that under current circumstances, Labor MKs will abstain from a Knesset vote on the exemption bill, so as not to undermine the chances of their party's inclusion in the new government, said the paper – 












© 2001 Al Bawaba (

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