Transport Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the National Unity party, and Minister Nathan Sharansky are acting to form a new right wing Russian-speakers party.
Lieberman and Sharansky appeared before a meeting of Russian-speaking activists, mostly from the Likud, in Jerusalem on Friday. Lieberman called on the activists, who had acted to thwart Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, to form such a party.
Lieberman blasted the Likud, saying it had become "quick-sand" and was no longer able to change the political and security situation.
Moshe Feiglin, whose camp in the Likud consists of many Russian speakers, and Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein and Michael Gorlovsky, also attended the meeting.
Lieberman surprised those present when he urged "learning the lessons" from the last Knesset elections, when Yisrael b'Aliyah, headed by Sharansky, rejected his call to run for the Knesset together with his party Yisrael Beiteinu.
"I don't want to settle past accounts, but if we want to lead the Russian street in the right direction, we must learn our lessons," Lieberman said.
Surveys held before the elections a year and a half ago showed that a joint bloc of Yisrael Beiteinu and Yisrael b'Aliyah could win 10 to 12 Knesset seats.
In private conversations in recent months Lieberman has said a number of times that even if he returns to the Likud some time in the future, it would not be before the next elections. His statement on Friday was also seen as part of his effort to check his options in case he quits the government.
Sources close to Sharansky say that quitting the government is definitely an option for him, in view of the fact that the Likud has not yet implemented the agreement with Yisrael Ba'Aliya, which joined the ruling party. Among other things, the membership spots promised to Sharansky in the Likud's central committee have not been allocated yet.
The participants at the meeting could not say whether the new party would be mainly Russian-speaking or consist of other elements of the far right as well.
In any case, some of the activists have already begun formulating a possible campaign. "If such a party is formed, we will stress that Lieberman was pushed out of his post as Likud CEO and the Likud failed to keep the agreement with Sharansky," an activist said. "`Vladimirs are not wanted in the Likud' is one possible slogan. You can go far on the insult felt by the Russian community," he said.
Another activist said that Lieberman "believes that if he and Sharansky run together, they could win back the eight Knesset seats of the Russian voters that went to the Likud in the last elections."
Lieberman's statement is also seen as a reaction to the crisis in his party. Before the Likud referendum, MK Michael Nudelman (National Union) announced that he would support the disengagement plan, which Lieberman was making every effort to foil.
Nudelman went as far as convening the institutions of the defunct Aliya party, which he formed with MK Yuri Stern in 1995, and passed a resolution supporting Sharon's plan.
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