Israelâ€™s political landscape underwent a tectonic shift on Sunday, when Ariel Sharon appealed for patriotic Israelis support of his new center-right party after his resignation from the ruling Likud Party. Sharonâ€™s decision was extraordinary even by the often chaotic standards of Israeli politics.
He described his new national responsibility party, as a â€œnational-liberal movementâ€, his decision is being watched closely by the Palestinian leadership, “what is happening in Israel today is very significantâ€ said Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator, “I believe it is an eruption of a political Volcano in Israelâ€.
Expressing no remorse for leaving the Likud, Sharon said that staying in the party would mean â€œwasting time in political disputesâ€.
Early polls suggest his individual popularity is higher than any other leaderâ€™s but the move still represents a huge political gamble. Sharon said his partyâ€™s dual priorities will be security and the fight against poverty, the reference to poverty was significant, as it was seen as an attempt to defuse the threat posed by the new Labour leader. Amir Peretz, who came to power recently on a ticket of fighting Israelâ€™s growing poverty, is enjoying a surge in the polls.
Sharon is gambling that he can beat Labour and thereby force Peretz into considering working in coalition with him, but if Sharonâ€™s party is beaten by Peretz, the Prime Minister will himself come under pressure to sign up to a Labour-led government.