Likud MKs revive bid to oust PM, form new government

A group of Likud MKs is trying to revive an initiative to muster the 61 MKs needed to force the president to ask a member of the opposition to form an alternative government, so as to oust Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and postpone the elections until November 2006. To gain the needed backing, the Likud would need the agreement of Shinui, the National Religious Party and especially Labor, which has so far rejected the proposal out of hand. A senior Likud member said Sunday night that „this initiative will pick up steam after the Likud leadership primaries on December 19, when we find out who will lead the Likud – Benjamin Netanyahu or Silvan Shalom. „It ought to be a coalition for saving democracy, in view of everything that has been going on recently in the political system.” Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz has so far objected to this initiative and said he would not support it in any way even if offered the prime ministership for a year. But Israeli media reported Monday morning that behind the scenes contacts were continuing, despite public denials. Labor MK Yuli Tamir, a close associate of Peretz, declined to answer directly Monday when asked if Labor had been approached to join an emergency government to oust Sharon. But she said Labor stood opposed to the concept. „[Sharon] must be ousted by democratic means, at the ballot box,” she said. Shas leader Eli Yishai also rejected the initiative Sunday night, saying that any move to postpone the elections would result in social and economic instability. A senior Shinui official said the party is not considering such an initiative and would never agree to form an alternative government with ultra-Orthodox parties. Shinui might consider forming a „secular unity government,” but that is a moot point at present. The opportunity to form an alternative government ends on December 29 with the end of the 21-day period since the official publication of the order to disband the Knesset. Until then, 61 MKs are entitled to sign a document obligating President Moshe Katsav to give one of the MKs the job of forming the government.