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Sharon Leaves Likud

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Gen. Ariel Sharon announced today that he was severing connections with Likud, the non-Labor opposition party he helped create three years ago. The Yom Kippur War here told a press conference here that he planned to found a new party to offer an alternative to Israel’s present leadership in next year’s elections. He did not disclose who would be on the new party’s election list but promised to publish its platform within a month.

Sharon, a controversial figure because of his outspoken criticism of the conduct of the Yom Kippur War, said he was disappointed with Likud. He called it a great idea that never came to pass and claimed that it offered no real alternative to the present regime. Sharon said he has been urging Likud to come up with firm programs and to introduce new faces among its candidates standing for election–but all in vain.

Informed sources said that the rift developed between-Sharon and Likud because the party insisted that the veteran Herut leader, Menachem Beigin, continue to head its list. Sharon thought that Beigin should stand for election like every other candidate and not be automatically propagated to the leadership position. Some said Sharon wanted to head the list but he denied this and said he wanted only a democratic Likud.

Labor Party circles said today that Sharon would eventually rejoin Likud because his defection today has in fact strengthened his bargaining position with that faction. They said that a separate party headed by Sharon would take votes from Likud and from the hawkish faction of the National Religious Party. But they did not believe that a new Sharon party would receive more than 2-3 seats in the Knesset.

While Sharon refused to disclose the position his party would take on major issues, he said its platform would be based on certain axioms he considered vital to Israel’s security. He said he could not conceive withdrawal from the Judaea and Samaria regions but he would not dismiss out of hand any formal proposals or definitions that could lead to a peace settlement.

At least one Labor Party figure is expected to appear on a Sharon party list should it materialize. He is Yaacov Halfon, of Beersheba, a member of the Labor Party Central Committee and an unofficial advisor to Premier Yitzhak Rabin. Halfon and Rabin have had some serious differences of late and Halfon is expected to resign from the Labor Party.

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