PM says he will try to keep Interior Ministry post within Likud
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his supporters are worried about complacency and a low turnout at Thursday's Likud Central Committee vote.
Sharon met personally with branch heads Tuesday afternoon during which he repeated his message that a loss in Thursday's vote would lead to early elections.
"I need your help," Sharon told the activists. "Bring the people."
"I will make every effort to keep the Interior Ministry portfolio in Likud hands," Sharon added.
The prime minister will request committee members to overturn an earlier decision banning coalition talks with the Labor Party.
Sharon and his associates are urging central activists within the party, including mayors and Likud branch heads, to do their utmost in bringing delegates to the polls to vote.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, his deputy, MK Ze'ev Boim, and Deputy Public Security Minister MK Yaakov Edri, will hold a candle-lighting ceremony for the second night of Hannukah in Tel Aviv in an event that was originally scheduled as a gathering of support for the prime minister.
Boim, who has recently been mobilizing support for Sharon, intends to call on the Likud "rebels" and their leader, MK Uzi Landau, to cease their "scheming."
"Your intention is clear and it is to bring down the prime minister by adding the National Religious Party," Boim will say. "I would suggest you stand up and admit without hesitation that this is your intention and you are interested in elections."
Netanyahu supports unity coalitionFinance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his support Tuesday to Sharon's plan to invite the opposition Labor Party into a unity government, a Sharon aide said.
After firing his coalition partners in the secular Shinui party for voting against the 2005 budget last week, Sharon is now looking to form a government with Labor and two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ).
"Netanyahu said he would support the motion brought by Likud ministers for Thursday for Labor to join the government," a Sharon aide said, after a meeting between the two at the premier's residence in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu pledged further that he would instruct his supporters in the Likud ruling body to vote in favor of the motion, the aide said.
Netanyahu's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. But an aide said before the meeting that the finance minister was "not against anybody" joining the coalition, as long as the proposed budget framework for 2005 remained intact.
Netanyahu had previously objected to bringing in Labor on grounds it could upset his austerity budget of some $60 billion, but appeared to have softened his stance amid Sharon's warnings of a snap election as the only alternative to a new coalition.
Sharon is walking a political tightrope after sacking his main coalition partner, the Shinui party, last week for voting against the 2005 state budget, leaving Likud in control of only 40 of parliament's 120 seats.