Israel’s governing Likud party has begun voting on a motion to hold an early leadership election.
It was tabled by allies of Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s longstanding rival. Netanyahu resigned as finance minister over the Gaza withdrawal plan and is hoping to lead the party, accusing Sharon of taking it too far to the left. The vote takes place in a poisonous atmosphere, with Likud splits highlighted by yesterday’s microphone imbroglio. When Sharon tried to address the party session he could not be heard. His supporters accused opponents of the Gaza pullout of sabotaging the sound system. That led to angry confrontations between the two camps. The prime minister eventually walked out of the meeting. If the motion goes against him it is thought he may leave Likud and form an alliance with the centrist Shinui party.