Netanyahu, Anticipating Elections, Tries to Make Amends with Party Foes

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, trying to unify the party in anticipation of the upcoming general elections in 1996, has found that it is not so easy to mend fences.

Netanyahu publicly apologized to his Likud arch-foe, former Foreign Minister David Levy, at the Likud’s central committee meeting last week. But Levy, who has boycotted all party forums since Netanyahu beat him in the 1993 party primary, reacted coolly to the peace overture.

Their fallout surrounds remarks Netanyahu made two years ago, after he was subject to a blackmail attempt regarding an alleged adulterous affair.

He said at the time that the attempt originated from an unnamed “party higher- up surrounded by underworld figures.”

Levy subsequently claimed the accusations were leveled at him.

Addressing the central committee session last week, Netanyahu said, “I have offended you, David, and your friends, and I apologize for that.”

He added, “I want David to resume full activity in the party.”

His remarks brought thunderous applause from members of Levy’s camp, but Levy’s own reaction was more reserved.

“I didn’t ask for the apology and I didn’t need it,” he told reporters from his office in Tel Aviv.

But Levy nonetheless left the door open for reconciliation, saying “time will tell if (Netanyahu) has learned something since saying such terrible things about colleagues in the movement.”

Netanyahu has reportedly made amends with his other rival in the party, former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Earlier this year, Sharon announced he would run for prime minister in 1996 as an independent candidate.

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