Sharon Demands Herut Showdown over Shamir’s Plan for Elections
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Sharon Demands Herut Showdown over Shamir’s Plan for Elections

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir faces an imminent showdown within his own Herut party over his proposals for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon, the most outspoken opponent of the plan, announced Monday that he would convene “within 10 days” the Herut Central Committee, which he chairs, to debate the matter.

The elections are the cornerstone of the peace plan Israel has presented to the United States. The idea is for Palestinians in the territories to elect representatives with whom Israel would negotiate an interim autonomy arrangement.

But Sharon, calling the plan “a major calamity,” claims it would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state “and to the partition of Jerusalem.”

Political observers say that if Shamir and his closest ally. Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, are unable to head off the Central Committee session, they will face a fierce battle between Herut hardliners and the relatively moderate elements in the party.

A key figure is Housing Minister David Levy, who is a deputy premier. While usually moderate in Herut affairs, he has spoken out against aspects of Shamir’s plan.

But political observers say that even if Levy backs Sharon, Shamir will still command a sizable majority in the Central Committee, whose membership exceeds 2,000.