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Sharansky Drops from Election Race, Says He Can’t Assemble List in Time

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Natan Sharansky has dropped out of the election race almost as suddenly as he entered it two weeks ago.

The longtime refusenik and “prisoner of Zion” in the former Soviet Union admitted at a news conference Tuesday that he could not put together a cohesive list of candidates in time for the Knesset elections on June 23.

Sharansky created some political excitement when he announced in Yediot Achronot on April 20 that he hoped to lead a mixed slate of immigrants and veteran settlers that would make immigrant absorption the No. 1 national priority.

He publicly invited Israelis who had distinguished themselves in commerce, diplomacy or military service to join him and other olim to establish the new political party.

According to Sharansky, he was contacted by dozens of prospective political partners and held discussions with some of them.

But his announcement got a cold reception from most other immigrant leaders, and political observers gave it small chance to succeed.

Sharansky has since decided that there is not enough time before the elections to put together a list of people who have the necessary confidence in each other to conduct a political campaign together.

That kind of confidence can be built only through a long experience of cooperation, he told the news conference.

Sharansky said he would not formally support the Soviet immigrant party Da, led by another former long-term refusenik, Yuli Kosharovsky.

He explained that since he heads the activist Zionist Forum, some of whose members have cast their lot with other immigrant groupings, he did not want to seem to be taking sides.

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