Viewing cable 05TELAVIV6576

05TELAVIV65762005-11-21 10:29:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

211029Z Nov 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006576 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/11/2015 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 
¶1.  SUMMARY:  Prime Minister Sharon resigned from the Likud 
Party at mid-day November 21, announcing that he will head a 
new party that observers anticipate will carry him to a new 
four-year term as prime minister.  The resignation came only 
hours after Sharon asked President Katsav to dissolve the 
Knesset and as Likud opponents and other opposition figures 
were trying to pre-empt dissolution by marshalling for a vote 
of no-confidence.  Sharon seeks dissolution as the means of 
achieving new elections with the least impact on his 
governance.  Elections are likely to occur between March 6 
and March 28.  Sharon's new party is "Aharayut Leumit," or 
"National Responsibility."  END SUMMARY. 
¶2.  (C) Prime Minister Sharon's key advisor, Dov Weissglas, 
confirmed to the Ambassador early November 21 that Sharon was 
at that moment meeting with President Katsav to request 
dissolution of the Knesset, and that Sharon would announce at 
1930 hours local time his own departure from Likud to form a 
new, centrist political party.  Sharon subsequently wrote to 
Likud Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi at mid-day to formalize his 
resignation in an attempt to pre-empt opponents' efforts to 
stage a no-confidence motion.  Reports indicate that Sharon 
opponents -- led by right-wing opponents within Likud -- may 
be able to muster the 61 votes to pass a no-confidence motion 
and to nominally agree, as required for submitting the 
motion, on a single MK whom they agree to back in forming a 
government.  Observers largely agree, however, that such 
forces would unite for such a vote primarily to spite Sharon, 
and that were such a vote to pass, no MK likely to be named 
would be able to form a sustainable government. 
¶3.  (C) If Katsav goes ahead with publication of an intention 
to dissolve the Kneset, any other MK then has 21 days to 
convince Katsav that he or she can form a new government, a 
move that Weissglas considered unlikely.  If Weissglas is 
correct that no other MK can actually put together a 
government, Sharon's actions will bring about new elections 
sometime between March 6 and March 28.  The actual date 
depends on provisions in the Basic Law that allow for various 
¶4.  (C) Weissglas asserted that during the time until 
elections Sharon will move ahead with his agenda, that the 
government will continue to operate normally, and that Sharon 
will be constrained from only the most significant policy 
moves.  Weissglas said the decision to ask for Knesset 
dissolution was taken at this time to minimize the chance 
that opposition parties, now including the Labor party, could 
force a successful no-confidence vote, which would contribute 
to political turmoil and possibly enhance the chance that 
another MK could be tasked to form a new government. 
¶5.  (C) Weissglas said Sharon anticipates that 15 or 16 Likud 
Knesset members will go with him to a new party, as will, he 
anticipates, about four prominent Labor members (but not 
deposed Labor leader Shimon Peres) and unspecified 
individuals from Shinui and other parties.  He did not 
specify which MKs would likely be involved in the new party, 
but said that at 0630 hours this morning Sharon had offered 
Defense Minister Mofaz the opportunity to continue in that 
role if Mofaz joins Sharon in the new party.  Mofaz, who 
earlier went on record as saying that he would seek the Likud 
chairmanship if Sharon were not competing, is to give his 
response later today.  Weissglas suggested the Foreign 
Minister Silvan Shalom, Education Minister Limor Livnat and 
Health Minister Danny Naveh will all remain with the Likud. 
Weissglas speculated that ousted Labor Party Chairman Shimon 
Peres will remain a member of Labor, but will not compete in 
the forthcoming elections, and said that Sharon will make a 
place for Peres in any new Sharon government.  Press reports 
note that Peres was conspicuously absent from the November 20 
Labor Party meeting that voted to quit the government. 
¶6.  (C) In requesting Knesset dissolution, Sharon will head 
during the period until elections a temporary government, 
with the portfolios of the just-now-departing Labor ministers 
distributed among remaining Cabinet members.  Weissglas said 
that the call for elections and the temporary nature of the 
government will not impact on Sharon's ability to move ahead 
with the Palestinians.  He suggested that Sharon could even 
undertake a prisoner release if he so desired.  Sharon, he 
said, would nonetheless keep in mind the example of former 
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who unsuccessfully attempted major 
moves during his final days in office. 
¶7.  (C)  Weissglas asserted that with his departure from the 
Likud, Sharon will move to a centrist position on all major 
issues facing the country and no longer be bound by his need 
to win support of the rightist-dominated Likud Central 
Committee.  Sharon, he said, will be more daring in both 
politial speech and in action, and will provide a new home 
for the Likud left, as well as elements of Labor and Shinui. 
Sharon, he said, will now run the political campaign as he 
¶8.  (C) COMMENT: Sharon's moves allow Israel's most popular 
politician and leader to seize the center of Israeli politics 
and likely secure a stronger governing position for a new 
four-year mandate.  Weissglas's comments and observations 
parallel those of political observers.  Polls consistently 
show a Sharon-led political party, whether Likud or a new 
party, winning a plurality of the Knesset's 120 seats and 
returning the 77-year-old premier to power. 
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