JERUSALEM (Feb. 19)
The Liberal Party component of Likud split Monday, when five key members, headed by Yitzhak Moda’i, declared themselves a separate faction within Likud.
The Liberals united last year with Herut, Likud’s dominant faction. But the dissidents now say they are dissatisfied with the terms of the merger.
They pointed out that Liberals failed to receive the chairmanship of any of the party’s key policy-making forums.
But most observers link the split to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s expected elevation of Moshe Nissim to minister of industry and trade, an office vacated by Ariel Sharon’s resignation.
Nissim, who now holds no portfolio in the Cabinet, is Moda’i’s sworn enemy among Likud Liberals. He is a supporter of Shamir’s policies, whereas Moda’i has fiercely opposed the prime minister’s peace diplomacy, along with Sharon and Minister of Construction and Housing David Levy, both of Likud’s Herut wing.
Political insiders also say Moda’i’s group resents how state funds were recently allocated to politically linked educational institutions. They were peeved because they thought Nissim-backed institutions received much more than institutions connected with Moda’i.
The new faction calls itself the Party for the Advancement of Liberal Ideas. The Liberals are, in fact, a conservative business-oriented party, not militantly right-wing like Herut.
In addition to Moda’i, the breakaways are Knesset members Avraham Sharir, Pessah Grupper, Pinhas Goldstein and Yosef Goldberg.