Old rivalries resurfaced in the Likud Party this week, as David Levy threatened to leave and take his followers with him unless Liked leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets his demands.
Addressing a rally of supporters Monday night, the former foreign minister called for a new electoral format that would ensure his camp representation within the party leadership and ensure his own place as No. 2 on the ticket in Israel’s 1996 national elections.
He set the end of the Passover holiday, toward the end of this month, as the deadline for his demands.
Levy’s comments came after a month of public silence regarding the highly publicized rift between himself and Netanyahu.
The rivalry between the two men dates back to the 1993 party primaries, in which Netanyahu handily defeated Levy for the Likud leadership.
It is also linked to a 1992 scandal, during which Netanyahu was forced to publicly admit marital infidelity. At the time, Netanyahu indirectly accused Levy of instigating the incident, a charge Levy denied.
Last November, at a Likud Central Committee meeting. Netanyahu publicly apologized to Levy in an effort to unify the party.
Political observers in Israel noted that in light of recent public opinion polls putting the Likud leader ahead of Prime Minister Yitzhak rabin, Levy’s latest action could be a political ploy aimed at positioning himself for a top job should Netanyahu come to power.
Although he did not mention the Likud leader’s name Monday, Levy rejected “those people” who have claimed that Levy has sought a protected place for himself and his supporters within the Likud leadership.
Netanyahu would not comment on the ultimatum. Sources close to him in the Knesset said he would consider it, but would not give in to blackmail.