Winner of Likud primary seen as clear favorite for prime minister.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Netanyahu instead," key Sharon supporter
Yitzhak Regev gloated.
Still, in 1996 Netanyahu closed a 20 percent
lead held by then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres of
Labor after Palestinian terrorists blew up buses in
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Netanyahu's hawkish
responses then turned the tables.
Similarly, the Nov.15 Shabbat
ambush of Israeli soldiers and paramili-
tary personnel in Hebron provided
Netanyahu with political ammunition: A chance
to embarrass Sharon by making the kind of right-
wing statements that the prime minister cannot
echo for fear of antagonizing Washington and
he smart money says Israelis won't have
to wait until January's general election
to know who their next prime
minister will be: Nearly all the
pundits agree it will be the winner of the
Nov. 28 Likud Party leadership primary
between Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu.
The reasoning is that the Likud is so far ahead
of Labor — and the right wing-religious bloc's
lead over the center-left is so great — that it
would take a major political
upheaval for anyone but the
Likud leader to form the next
Whoever wins the Likud
primary will face a Labor
Party led by Haifa Mayor
Amram Mitzna, the winner of
Labor's primary on Tuesday.
Israel's Channel 2 Television
aired an exit poll Tuesday
night that showed Mitzna
winning 57 percent of the
vote. That would be far more
than the 40 percent necessary
to prevent a runoff with
either current party leader
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer or leg-
islator Haim Ramon.
Ben-Eliezer won 35 percent
of the vote and Ramon 8 per-
cent, the exit poll showed.
Final numbers were expected
to be somewhat closer.
Pundits believe the Likud's
leader in the January elections
will be Sharon, the incumbent
prime minister, who leads
Netanyahu by almost 20 percent
jeopardizing an Israeli request for $10 billion in
in the latest polls. But Netanyahu is not giving up:
He hopes to win by appealing to the innately hawk- American loan guarantees.
Israel should respond to the attack by expelling
ish sentiments of Likud voters and by slamming the
Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat now,
Sharon government's economic record.
Netanyahu declared. In fact, he said, that's what
he would do if he were prime minister. Moreover,
Not Same Old
Netanyahu said, the Hebron agreement that he
himself signed with Arafat is no longer operative
His new position as Sharon's foreign minister has
because Arafat rendered it null and void by sup-
not stopped Netanyahu from criticizing the gov-
porting terror. According to Netanyahu, the same
ernment. But pundits say the old magic has gone,
pointing to the vociferous support Sharon enjoyed is true of the Oslo accords as a whole.
Sharon's response has been curtly dismissive:
earlier this month at the Likud convention, com-
he says, isn't gained by slogans.
pared to the ripples of polite applause for
is aiming at the Likud's right
wing, Sharon is already looking to the political
"Likud members were always smart, and if the
center, where the general election in January will
nation wants Sharon, they won't give them
be decided. Therefore, when Netanyahu rails that
Sharon will allow the creation of a Palestinian
state, Sharon counters that a Palestinian state
already exists in all but name.
When Netanyahu talks about restructuring
Israel's economic policies and cutting income tax
to a 35 percent maximum, Sharon unabashedly
echoes the Labor line that the real solution to
Israel's economic woes is a peace deal with the
Palestinians, which Sharon says he will achieve.
Another Netanyahu ploy is to harp on Sharon's
age by repeatedly referring to the coming four-
year term, at the end of which Sharon will be 78.
Sharon emphasizes the experience and judgment
that come with age, implying
that the younger Netanyahu is
relatively inexperienced, and irre-
sponsible to boot.
There was little in Sharon's earli-
er career to suggest that as prime
minister he would become the
consensual, middle-of-the road
elder statesmen. He first came to
prominence as the daring, unbri-
dled commander of the Unit 101
commando force, set up in the
early 1950s to conduct reprisal
raids against Arab terrorists who
infiltrated from Egypt and
Always unorthodox, Sharon the
soldier invariably seemed to over-
step his orders, most notoriously
when his men blew up about 40
buildings in an anti-terror
reprisal raid on the Jordanian vil-
lage of Qibya, leaving 69 civil-
ians buried in the rubble.
In the early 1970s, as head of
the Israel Defense Force's Southern
Command, the uncompromising Sharon rooted
out terrorism in the Gaza Strip by bulldozing the
alleyways terrorists used to ambush or escape
That same determination saw Sharon cross the
Suez Canal into Egypt — against the advice of
many of his colleagues — to turn the tide of the
1973 Yom Kippur War. As the general with the
bandaged head leading his forces across the canal,
Sharon became one of the icons of that war.
Nine years later, the hero turned villain: As
defense minister, Sharon was blamed when Israel's
Lebanese Christian allies massacred Palestinians in
the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the
Lebanon War. Forced to resign as defense minister
after a commission of inquiry published its find-