Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a campaign to unseat Ariel Sharon as leader of Israel’s Likud party. It comes just hours after being lambasted by his former boss, Prime Minister Sharon, as a man who “panics and quickly loses his cool”, and “unfit to lead Israel”. Netanyahu was finance minister in Sharon’s coalition before resigning last month over the dismantling of Jewish settlements, and was prime minister from 1996 to 99.
Current opinion polls suggest he will heavily defeat Sharon in the upcoming Likud primaries, which must be held by the end of the year. Netanyahu leads a hardline camp opposed to Sharon’s policy of pulling out of Gaza and West Bank settlements, that is currently splitting Likud. It raises many political possibilities, like general elections earlier than the scheduled November 2006, or the formation of a new centrist party by Sharon to head off the Netanyahu challenge.