Sharon Trying to Revamp Likud

Gen. Ariel Sharon is trying to revamp Likud, the non-Labor opposition bloc he founded only last year, to eliminate its various factional components and create a unified party with much wider voter appeal. He has announced that he intends to carry out these reforms from within Likud. But rumors have cropped up lately that if he is unable to do this, the charismatic Yom Kippur War hero may head up a new movement and stand for election on a separate list.

Likud is composed mainly of the Herut and Liberal Parties which formerly constituted the Gahal bloc plus such former splinter factions as the State List and Free Center and the Greater Israel Movement. The latter has never been represented in the Knesset. All of the components are right of center politically and oppose any Israeli territorial concessions outside the framework of a formal peace settlement with the Arabs. But Herut, headed by former underground fighter Menachem Beigin, takes an extreme militant and nationalistic view and, like the Greater Israel Movement, advocates annexation of all or most of the administered territories.

The Liberal, which is Sharon’s party, takes a more moderate position. Sharon is said to take the view that as long as Likud represents extremist positions its electoral base will always be limited. He has explained his position to his Liberal colleagues in seeking their support for reforms.

SHARON MAY RUN IF NEW ELECTIONS ARE HELD

But the Liberals, though sometimes at odds with their Herut partners, prefer gradual reforms to the precipitate action favored by Sharon. Obliterating factional lines in Likud, some, observers have pointed out, would encounter many complications. There is the position of the affiliated world General Zionist movement and the separate images that the Liberals, Herut and the other Likud partners jealously guard that must be considered.

Because of these difficulties and Sharon’s personality which favors rapid movement in politics no less than on the battlefield, some political circles believe that if new elections are held Sharon will run on a separate list. He is said to have a significant number of supporters already from among the grass roots protest and election reform movements with which he has maintained close contact.

Should he win election, a movement headed by Sharon could be a potential partner in a Labor coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin, these circles say. They note that while Sharon has attacked Rabin politically, he strongly defended him against charges by a fellow Likud member, Gen. Ezer Weizman, that he was unfit to govern. According to the sources, Sharon has not ruled out the possibility of an association with Rabin at some later stage.

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