PM Asks Yisrael b'Aliyah Chair Sharansky to Join Forces

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon telephoned Yisrael b'Aliyah Chairman Natan Sharansky on Thursday, and asked him to consider linking his party with Likud as part of a special agreement.

Sharansky, who resigned his seat in the Knesset following his party's poor showing, would hold a senior cabinet post in Sharon's next government if he accepts the offer. The Yisrael b'Aliyah chairman decided to step down as leader after the party only won two seats in Tuesday's elections for the 16th Knesset.

It would seem, according to Sharon's political considerations, that Sharansky would be more valuable inside the prime minister's coalition than on the opposition benches.

Yisrael b'Aliyah is examining Sharon's suggestion, although many members are concerned it will be "lost" if it becomes part of the Likud, and believe that such a move could even endanger the party's political future. They maintain that the party's position would be stronger as part of the opposition, particularly as the voice of political and social protest for Russian immigrants.

On the other hand, many people in the Likud are against the inclusion of Yisrael b'Aliyah in the coalition at the cost of giving Sharansky a cabinet post.