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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:34 GMT
Israeli press: Sharon out in front
Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon
Old rivals battle it out to lead their party
Israel's leading newspapers are in no doubt that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will defeat his longstanding rival Binyamin Netanyahu in the leadership contest for the Likud Party.

Neither candidate offers good tidings

Ha'aretz

From across the political spectrum comes the message that Mr Sharon will win a convincing victory, but also that a dangerous future awaits the victor.

"Neither candidate offers good tidings to the Israeli public," says the liberal daily Ha'aretz, fearing the outcome "will tighten Sharon's grip on the Likud leadership for the coming years" and bode ill for Israel.

It accuses Mr Sharon of "faulty political vision" which failed to turn the military campaign against terrorism to political advantage.

"It's even more doubtful that if Likud wins the general election, Sharon will be capable of leading in an essentially different direction."

Writing in Ha'aretz, commentator Aluf Benn says that Washington is "convinced Ariel Sharon will win... and is openly helping his campaign and ignoring his rivals".

Painful reality

The top circulation, centrist Yediot Aharonot recalls Mr Netanyahu's advice that "whoever is desperate should not vote for me. Vote for Sharon."

"To his horror he discovered that this is not an election slogan: This is the reality."

Yediot also regards the Israeli voter as idiosyncratic.

"The Israeli voter is a unique animal: When asked what is bothering him, he enumerates a long list of economic and social hardships. But on election day, all those civilian concerns are pushed aside and become totally unimportant: the Israeli voter bases his decisions only on the security position of the parties," the paper says.


The economy will be the one to force Sharon to accept a political solution to be decided by his guarantor - the US president

Ma'ariv

Yediot commentator Nahum Barnea feels Likud members are setting out for the ballot boxes "confident they are electing Israel's next prime minister".

Writing in the independent, major circulation Ma'ariv, commentator Moshe Perl forecasts that Mr Sharon will carry the day, but will soon "find himself a prisoner" of the United States.

"This will be the moment he will understand what many economists have been telling him - the economy will decide this war. The economy will be the one to force Sharon to accept a political solution to be decided by his guarantor - the US president."

Foreign ministry saviour

The conservative Jerusalem Post notes that opinion polls suggest Mr Sharon is the man who will lead Likud into the next election and will "likely also lead the country in coming years".


Netanyahu equal to the task of confronting a Hanan Ashrawi

Jerusalem Post

The Post feels there is a likelihood Mr Netanyahu will remain in his current post of foreign minister and will need to "reform a ministry that has ceased to function effectively as an instrument of government policy, becoming instead a sort of shadow government working at cross-purposes with the prime minister's office".

"He must also instill a sense of vigour and mission to a bureaucracy as demoralised internally as it is ineffective abroad."

The Post sees Mr Netanyahu as one of the few Israeli politicians who is "a talented debater, quick on his feet, attractive on television, and equal to the task of confronting a Hanan Ashrawi".

Just the man to save the foreign ministry, in fact.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Michael Voss
"He's fighting for his political future as the voice of moderation"
Morton Klein, of the Zionist Organisation of America
"The Likud people feel an obligation to support him"

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28 Nov 02 | Middle East
04 Nov 02 | Middle East
07 Nov 02 | Middle East
13 May 02 | Middle East
27 Nov 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
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