According to the Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim, the
Defense Minister has approved the construction of 3,000 new
apartments in Ariel over the next ten years, almost doubling
the number of residents which currently stands at 17,000. The
prime minister's office denied the report, saying that only
117 new residential units were approved for construction.
Deputy Defense Minister Boim said, "While disengagement takes
place in Gaza, Ariel is an indivisible part of Israel." Boim
said that there is no basis for rumors that the disengagement
in Gaza will be followed by disengagement in Yehuda and
Officials in Ariel said that there will not be massive
building right away but that the rate of construction would
be determined by demand for homes. They estimated that it
could take 10 years to build all the units at a rate of about
300 units a year. During a recent visit to Ariel, Sharon
said: "This (settlement) bloc will forever remain an
inseparable part of the State of Israel and enjoy territorial
contiguity with it."
In a meeting with Likud municipal heads on Monday, the prime
minister said that Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital
forever. Sharon also told the mayors that there will be no
More than one hundred Likud members attended the session,
expressing their support for Sharon and his moves.
Sharon slammed his opponents within the party. "I don't
understand this attempt to remove me," he said. "The party is
in power. This is unprecedented."
Political observers said that it was far from unprecedented
that there are attempts to remove a sitting prime
Participants in the meeting said the prime minister implied
that he intends to remain the leader of the Likud and that he
has no plans to leave the party.
Commenting on West Bank construction, Sharon said: "There's
no need to talk. We need to build. And we're building without
Sharon's statements come less than three weeks before the
Likud's Central Committee is to convene and to decide about
when to hold party primaries for leadership. In the current
political system, the leader of the largest party becomes the
prime minister. As things stand now, the Likud will clearly
remain the largest party.
There is a struggle within the Likud for leadership between
Sharon and Netanyahu. Since most of the party was against the
pullout, the assumption is that the sooner internal elections
are held within the Likud, the worse it is for Sharon and the
better it is for Netanyahu. Even though Netanyahu remained in
the government almost up until the actual evacuation, he
remains the candidate of the opponents of Sharon's policies.
The later the primaries are held, the more time it gives for
people to forget and for Sharon to do new things to recover
his party's support. The current phase of the Likud
leadership struggle is played out in attempts to move up or
postpone the party primaries.
Sharon met with Education Minister Limor Livnat, who is
attempting to play a mediating role between the PM and his
Likud opponents in a bid to come up with an agreed-upon
primaries date. However, Sharon made it clear he had no
intention to accept any compromise on the matter and said the
primaries should not be brought forward at all.
If Sharon loses to Netanyahu, it is not clear what he will
do. There have been rumors that he will start a new party
with Shimon Peres and Tomy Lapid, but those are probably
wishful thinking from supporters of those politicians, who
otherwise have no hope of getting any significant political