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Leaders of Yisrael b'Aliyah met last night to the future of the party following the disappointing election results and the decision by chairman Natan Sharansky to resign his seat in the Knesset.

Party leaders and elected local authority representatives held a preliminary four-hour meeting last night, to debate the reasons behind the poor electoral showing last week and to weigh a merger with the Likud. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Sharansky last week to ask him to consider entering into a political alliance with the Likud, in exchange for a senior cabinet post in Sharon's next government.

Two other options being considered are continuing as a separate political body, and the formation of a joint technical Knesset faction with Avigdor Lieberman's National Union.

The meeting mulled the party's future on the national stage, as well as its future on a municipal level, especially given the municipal and local elections due to be held toward the end of the year.

Several members said that the local level would be the perfect platform for Yisrael b'Aliyah to represent its electorate, while others argued that the formation of a "Russian bloc" would ultimately strengthen the party. There were also calls for the party to enter into a pact with Shinui, which benefited most from Yisrael b'Aliyah's drop in support.

Although Sharansky's announcement that he is resigning from the Knesset appears to pave the way for some sort of pact with the Nation Union, the most likely scenario seems to be allowing the party to be swallowed up by the Likud. Over the past few days, contacts have been ongoing between Yisrael b'Aliyah and Likud, mediated by Avigdor Yitzhaki, director general of the Prime Minister's Office.

A further meeting of the Yisrael b'Aliyah leadership is expected later in the week.