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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Sharon's defeat dominates Israeli press
Ariel Sharon (left), Likud party chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (centre), Benjamin Netanyahu (right)
Sharon failed to win over the party
Israel's newspapers are giving huge attention to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's defeat on the issue of whether to accept a Palestinian state at a meeting of his party's central committee.

"'No' to Sharon", declares the headline in Yediot Ahronot, Israel's largest selling newspaper.

The protagonists have removed their gloves and, from now on, it's all-out war

Yossi Verter, Haaretz
The newspaper says the Sunday night meeting was "the best show in town even though - it must be said - the quality of the actors has not improved over the years".

The paper examines the attempts by Mr Sharon and his rival Benjamin Netanyahu to depict themselves as tougher than the other towards the Palestinians.

"This is what the public wants and this is what it will get," the paper says, fearing such hardline policies "make it certain that the way to a settlement will be especially long and bloody on both sides".

Sharon praised

Maariv commends Mr Sharon's "responsible and prudent stand", saying "if Netanyahu were now prime minister he would have given Sharon's speech," and if Mr Sharon were his political rival, "he would have raised demands that Netanyahu raised".

However, the newspaper fears that the party's decision to rule out a Palestinian state "provided the Palestinians with a free gift", at a time when the Palestinian Authority is under pressure from the West to crack down on terrorism.

Benjamin Netanyahu
The gloves are off, says Haaretz

The Jerusalem Post observes that the meeting in Tel Aviv was one of the stormiest in the party's history.

"Mr Sharon", the paper says, "went in to the meeting aware he was facing a hostile audience."

Despite delaying a vote until late at night when most members had gone home, the paper notes that the prime minister "failed to outmanoeuvre his rivals".

Writing in Haaretz, columnist Yossi Verter calls the party meeting the latest battle in the "war of inheritance between Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, which has until now been waged mainly in television studios".

"The rules of the game have changed," he says. "The protagonists have removed their gloves and, from now on, it's all-out war."

See also:

12 May 02 | Middle East
Likud embarrasses Sharon
13 May 02 | Middle East
Likud vote challenges Bush policy
13 May 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Israel's divided right
13 May 02 | Middle East
Excerpts from Likud speeches
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