Sharansky Quits Knesset but Remains Yisrael b'Aliyah Head

Yisrael b'Aliyah head Natan Sharansky resigned from the Knesset Wednesday afternoon but announced he will continue to lead the party.

Marina Solodkin, No. 3 on the list, will now make it into the Knesset. Yisrael b'Aliyah won two seats on Tuesday, down from four.

Sharansky said he would consider taking a position in Sharon's government should the party be assigned a ministerial portfolio. He will also be acting to increase the party's support base, Army Radio reported.

Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael b'Aliyah's No. 2, said before the votes were counted Tuesday that if the party wins six seats it will have succeeded - and if it wins three, it will have failed.

Party officials blamed low immigrant turnout for the poor results. "We should take into account that not a few immigrants worked today in order to earn a living, and possibly many of them couldn't be bothered to go and vote," said Edelstein.

In addition, reliable sources indicate that hundreds, if not thousands, of immigrants had put two slips in the ballot envelope - one for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and one for Natan Sharansky. Possibly they were confused, forgetting that the electoral system had reverted to the status quo ante, or maybe they just wanted to identify with both the right and the immigrant party. Whatever the reason, those votes are not valid.

Sharansky turned up Tuesday at the campaign festivities in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Tel Aviv, hoarse from shouting. He called on the party faithful to remain optimistic, thanked them all for their work and promised that the party leaders would convene to discuss their next steps. He then hurried away without answering questions.